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Ducks Dish: On Matt Beleskey's Anaheim Exit

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The debut edition of a new site feature on Anaheim Calling, as we tackle posts from around the blogosphere and continue the conversation on hot button Ducks and NHL issues.

Beleskey checks Chicago's Antoine Vermette during the Western Conference Final.
Beleskey checks Chicago's Antoine Vermette during the Western Conference Final.
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

For the longest time I was not a regular blog reader, choosing to strictly get information and opinion from the so called 'major' news sites. The first blog to capture and hold my attention was Andrew Sullivan's "The Dish" on The Atlantic, where he curated a thoughtful collection of posts discussing the news issues of the day, continuing longer conversation arcs, featuring cool news and arts stories, and more. It was a site that presented a variety of opinions, and created a fun read that felt like a town hall discussion. The goal of 'Ducks Dish' is to present a similar style of posting, paying tribute to the inspiration in name, and continuing the discussion started by articles from around the web about the Ducks, the NHL, and hockey in general. -Eric

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It feels like the Matt Beleskey question was one of if not the largest facing the Anaheim Ducks come free agency. On one hand you had a player drafted by the team coming off a career year, scoring one of the most visually memorable goals of the playoffs to win game five of the Western Conference Final in overtime. On the other there were the reasoned concerns being voiced about what he could command on the open market, and whether he was truly that critical a component of the core for the Ducks success in recent seasons.

Richard Spalding over at Pucks of a Feather laid out a scenario that paints the Ducks as disrespecting their former player, wondering whether the franchise did enough to re-sign the winger:

The fact that Beleskey's camp made no counter-offer to Anaheim's four-year, $16 million offer could have been due to the lack of respect Beleskey felt the team was showing him. I'm just speculating here - it is a blog - but there were plenty of trade rumors involving Beleskey in February, and even though he was not shipped out, the Ducks did bring in Jiri Sekac and Tomas Fleischmann. Those moves, and the fact that the Ducks chose not to extend his contract before the trade deadline, could have convinced Beleskey that the team was already assuming that he would be gone come 2015-2016 - not exactly a vote of confidence, especially since Beleskey was pretty vocal in saying that Anaheim was where he wanted to be.

The point at the end about Anaheim being Beleskey's preferred choice feels a bit of a red herring, as only the most malcontented of players outright demand trades or say they don't want to be where they're at, especially at the trade deadline. If a four-year deal worth $4 mil. per season is seen as disrespect, then it's probably also fair to assume that the idea of more money being available in free agency was already in the back of the minds of Beleskey's camp. The thought that bringing in other players to make the team deeper and better balanced for the playoffs seems more like it'd be a future justification for a decision that's already been made, especially if presented as "the team brought in guys who'd be my replacements."

Spalding continues:

Not being offered as much money as you think you are worth is one form of disrespect, yes, but so is being dangled as trade bait and watching the club that drafted you go out and bring in your replacements while you are still on the team. Could the Anaheim Ducks have avoided Beleskey's departure by simply offering a contract extension before the trade deadline? After all, Beleskey was having a breakout season, and though there is reason to believe he will comeback down to earth next season, he was a nice role player who gave Anaheim's second line scoring punch.

It's one thing to treat Beleskey as a former bottom six forward who had a nice breakout season when paired with an elite center in Ryan Kelser. It's another thing entirely to start acting like the way the organization handled his final year was anything approaching Bobby Ryan's final seasons. In the case of Ryan, the whispers and rumors were a seeming constant for his final few years with the Ducks, but can you blame Anaheim for looking at getting something for a forward they felt was over-valued at the time?

(As an aside, looking at how Ryan has performed in Ottawa thus far, Bob Murray deserves credit for pulling the trigger on moving Ryan when he did. A $7.25 mil. cap hit for a forward who's scored 23 and 18 goals as a feature player, no longer buoyed by Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, is pretty steep. While Jakob Silfverberg hasn't reached his production in the regular season, this past playoff was better than anything Ryan ever did with the Ducks.)

Ryan had 30-goal seasons in each of his first four full years in the NHL. Trying to bash-to-fit that same narrative to a forward who before this season had a previous career high of 11 goals is unfair to both players. You can't fault Beleskey's camp for thinking in a league where David Clarkson and his one 30 goal season gets a deal worth $5.25 mi. that he may be able to pull something similar. At the same time, at least in Clarkson's case he had put up 10+ goals in four of his five other years with the Devils, a much more proven track record.

Beleskey was surely a valuable player for the Ducks in his middle lines role, but in a cap-based league where resources are finite teams have to pick their spots as to who they most strongly try to accommodate. For all Beleskey brings, his level of production and impact over the life of his time in Anaheim didn't justify the franchise bending over backward to keep him considering the multitude of contracts coming due next season. If anything, the Ducks were plenty generous in their contract offer, and the free agent market showed just how much value there is in a middle lines forward who feasted thanks to the caliber of his center this season.