Is Matt Beleskey Going to be Overpaid in Free Agency?

Matt Beleskey had a breakout season in 2014-15. He scored 22 goals, and 32 points, both NHL career highs for him. So far in this year’s playoffs he’s got seven goals, some of which have been very clutch. The soon-to-be 27-year-old had never scored more than 11 goals in the NHL, while bouncing around between the big leagues and the minors. Beleskey is set to become a UFA this summer, and he may have priced himself out of the Ducks organization. There have been reports that he could fetch over $5 million dollars on the open market. I look at Beleskey and see a sign over his head that says “danger, danger!”.

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell - Photo Credit:  Andy Martin Jr
Chicago Blackhawks left wing Bryan Bickell – Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr

Is Matt Beleskey the next Bryan Bickell?

In 2013, the Chicago Blackhawks decided they had seen enough from Bryan Bickell and felt he was deserving of his contract extension that would pay him $4 million dollars a season. The deal surprised me, because by the numbers, Bickell’s coming out party in the 2013 playoffs looked unsustainable. And the Hawks saw him every day, yet still felt it was the right move. Maybe there are intangibles that come with Bickell’s game, and they felt they couldn’t lose him. His best NHL season came in 2010-11 where he scored 17 goals. He hasn’t touched that number since.

Bickell scored nine goals in the 2013 playoffs, matching his total for the entire regular season. How could it be anything more than an anomaly? Well, hindsight is 20/20 but you would like to think other General Managers have learned lessons from the mistakes of others. But you can pretty much guarantee that some team is going to throw a boat-load of money at Beleskey in free agency, and it will likely be a team from the Eastern Conference.

When you have a guy who plays in the Western Conference, he tends to go largely unnoticed by the Eastern-based media. And then one of two things will happen. 1. He’ll be grossly underrated, or 2. He will be overvalued because of recency bias and a small sample size. Now one thing that separates Beleskey from Bickell is that he tends to drive possession more, and his advanced stats overall suggest that while his production may fall off, it shouldn’t be as drastic as that of Bickell.

Is Beleskey the Product of a Good Team?

Maple Leafs David Clarkson
 (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, so it’s safe to say that they were a pretty good team that season. Bryan Bickell was one of the pieces on that good team, and he got to play with Jonathan Toews, one of the best center’s in the game. Matt Beleskey also plays on a good team. The Anaheim Ducks finished the season tied for the best record in the West. They’re currently one win away from the Stanley Cup final. Beleskey plays most of his minutes with Ryan Kesler. And while Kesler isn’t Toews, he’s still one of the better centers out there.

Beleskey’s current role I would say, is perfect for his skill set. He’s a solid second line winger, and he makes $1.4 million, which may be a slight bargain, but to suggest he deserves a raise of almost $4 million is reaching a little high. Let’s remind ourselves of David Clarkson, the New Jersey Devils winger who had a career high in goals (30) and points (46) in 2011-12 season. You could argue the Devils were a pretty good team that year, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup final, after all. No surprise that Clarkson’s production has slipped dramatically since then, but the Toronto Maple Leafs were fooled enough to give him a massive contract that earns him $5.5 million a season.

I’m not sure Matt Beleskey is David Clarkson either, but again, you have to take into account the team he plays on and players he plays with. To me, consistency is the name of the game. When you see a player with one good season surrounded by several mediocre seasons, it likely suggests their strong numbers were the exception and not the rule.

How Much is Matt Beleskey Really Worth?

Yes, Beleskey scored 22 goals, but he only had 32 points overall, which isn’t exactly a mind-blowing number. Let’s take a look a few other forwards who finished the season with 32 points and their current salaries:

  • Ales Hemsky – $4 million
  • Martin Erat- $2.25 million
  • Derek Roy- $1 million
  • Steve Bernier- $600,000

Out of that group, Beleskey had the most goals, and he played the fewest games (65). If we’re going to use his peers as a salary comparison, he’s probably worth about $3 million or so, though even that feels a little bit high. There is no doubt Matt Beleskey is going to be a rich man come July 1st, whether he deserves to be or not. The only question now is which team is the one to take the gamble on him. I’d imagine there will be quite a few in the running for his services. I hope for his sake and theirs, he’s worth the price tag.