LAS VEGAS – “We made a really fair offer. God bless him,” said a downtrodden Bob Murray of the Anaheim Ducks when speaking to reporters following Tuesday’s general managers meeting.
Murray was referring to Matt Beleskey, of course.
After a week of reports saying he will, he won’t, and/or he might re-sign with the Ducks, the GM officially closed the book on Beleskey time in Anaheim. The pending UFA is widely considered to be the top forward leading this off-season’s bound to be overpaid free agent class. He posted career highs in the regular season (22 goals in 65 games) and playoffs (8 goals in 16 games).
Allowing Beleskey to walk didn’t come from a lack of trying to re-up him. “We made an offer and they rejected it immediately,” said Murray. “I said that at the trade deadline, that I doubted it was going to work. They obviously feel like they’re going to do a lot better [in free agency]. I’m very comfortable with the offer we made.”
Murray clutched his portfolio close to his chest as he spoke about the winger in a tone usually reserved for dads who are disappointed by choices made by their children. It felt personal to Murray and he said as much, “I was a big part of drafting him. It’s always difficult when we’ve drafted, we’ve developed, we’ve done a lot of work here, and we’ve turned him into a pretty good hockey player.”
He’s right. It took seven-ish seasons for Beleskey to even register on other team’s radar. Up until this past season, he was nothing more than a guy who would score here and there (usually in spurts when playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) and frequently dropped the gloves.
This kind of breakout season by a relative unknown isn’t something new to Murray and the Ducks. Just look at Nick Bonino. Like Beleskey, Bonino had a career year for the Ducks and came up big in the playoffs. The following post-season, Murray chose to use Bonino as a part of the trade that brought Ryan Kesler to Anaheim.
Okay, so he got something big for Bonino, who had 3-years left on his contract at the time of the trade. Why didn’t he deal Beleskey earlier in the year?
“I could have traded him a day before the deadline,” remarked Murray. “We had a deal, and I just said ‘no, that was wrong for my hockey team. Then he played very well in the playoffs. We didn’t get there, but we almost got there.”
Was it a lost opportunity for the Ducks? Possibly. Who knows what they would have received in return. Picks would be good for future, but Anaheim’s goal was to win now.
Instead, Murray opted for the greater good. He felt trading Beleskey would have sent the “totally wrong message” to the hockey team. (Which is funny considering he replaced nearly the entire defense. Different message, I guess.)
As difficult as it might to let Beleskey walk into the sunset, the Ducks aren’t short on young (and cheaper) talent to step up and take his place. Jiri Sekac started to show why the team acquired him from Montreal. Prospects like Nic Kerdiles, Stefan Noesen, and Nick Ritchie are expected to make a run at the big team out of camp.
As for the GM, he has his hands full with soon-to-be RFA’s Jakob Silfverberg and Emerson Etem. Not to mention figuring out how to pay Kesler so he’s not faced with a Beleskey-esque situation this time next year.