Anyone who has taken a gander at Bruins Twitter lately knows that Matt Beleskey is on the hot seat for many fans. Once a hot commodity, Beleskey’s value has sunken over the last couple of years.
This is a hard post to write. I enjoyed watching Beleskey during the 2015-16 season. He had a career-high 37 points in 80 games while playing on a struggling third line and getting some power play time.
Beleskey also seems like a great guy. He donated 400 pies from Mike’s Pastry on Thanksgiving. It is heartbreaking that he feels a need to respond to all of the recent criticism.
I am working my ass off to be the best player I️ can be. I hope all Boston faithful know that! I️ want nothing more then to help this team win anyway I️ can. https://t.co/gjZZXTWCUf— Matt Beleskey (@Matt_Beleskey) November 22, 2017
The problem with Matt Beleskey is not himself, but his contract. In the summer of 2015, Beleskey signed a five-year contract worth $19 million.
At the time, he may have been worth the money. In the 65 games of his contract year, he scored 22 goals and 32 points. His 1.72 primary points (goals and first assists) per 60 minutes suggested he was a top six forward.
Where did it go wrong?
Last season, Beleskey only managed to muster 8 points in 650 minutes, 108 of them on the powerplay. His on-ice numbers were also poor. His shot metrics were about average, but his GF% (goals for / goals for + goals against) relative to teammates was -13.62. That 17th worst among NHL forwards with a minimum 400 minutes at 5v5.
How did it go wrong?
One factor that certainly played its part was injuries. A knee injury in December of 2016 held him out almost a quarter of the season. Working your way back from an injury mid-season is a tough task. It is understandable to see a dip in production the first few games back. However, I doubt that is the only factor.
When looking at the numbers, one major change in Matt Beleskey’s game exists: he doesn’t shoot as much anymore.
Beleskey saw a 20% drop in the number of shots he was taking per 60 minutes between the 2015-16 season and 2016-17 season. That is a huge drop.
Considering Beleskey has never been much of a playmaker, when you take the puck out of his hands, you will always get subpar production.
So how bad is the situation?
When it comes to what is happening on the ice, we are seeing the same Beleskey we’ve always seen. He will give you stable results, but nothing too far above or below average. Suffering from poor on-ice shooting and save percentages, I expect his goal differential will change in the right direction at some point.
Unfortunately, poor production and a negative wins above replacement in 2016-17 are major red flags. Although I am confident Beleskey is a better player than people perceive him now, he isn’t living up to his $3.8 million cap hit with two more years remaining after the conclusion of this season.
Is there a solution?
I’ve seen some suggestions to waive Beleskey. I doubt teams will take on his contract if he appears on waivers. This would lead to the Bruins eventually buying him out.
The cost of a Beleskey buyout would cost the team $4.67 million over a span of four years. With Seidenberg and Hayes also having buyout cap costs during that period, the Bruins would be paying millions for three players to play against them.
From a numbers standpoint, That $4.67 million equates to a little over 1 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). It is unlikely that Beleskey will have -1 WAR during the time remaining. That means logically, it makes no sense to buy him out.
There has been some speculation that his name has been tossed out in trade talks. That is the best option for the Bruins.
So what does all of this mean?
As mentioned above, this isn’t on Beleskey as much as it is management. This is a case of a bad slump for a guy getting paid a lot of money.
However, if the Bruins decide to buy him out, three buyouts on their recent record means there is a problem with the process within the organization.