Top-10 UFA Countdown: #6 Matt Beleskey

Kent Wilson
June 16 2015 11:00AM

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports

This is a series counting down the top-10 pending UFAs. It will be posted across the Nation Network over the next month! Enjoy! 

Almost every postseason there arises an unlikely hero from the middle of a team's roster to make headlines. And any time that player is a pending free agent, teams line up to pay that him too much money as a result. Call it the Bickell effect. 

This year, that player is Matt Beleskey. The Ducks 27-year old winger has been a run-of-the-mill NHL forward for years, but his 8-goal in 16-games playoff performance combined with his size (6', 205 pounds) has him on a lot of GM's radars heading into July. Just to make his agent even happier, Beleskey also put up the best regular season of his NHL career, managing 22-goals and 32-points. His underlying numbers, however, tell a much more complicated story than his counting stats.

Track Record

Beleskey's career up until this year had been unremarkable. Chosen in the 4th round in 2006, he eventually made the show in 2009-10, scoring 18 points and playing about 12 minutes per night. And that became his role for the next five seasons: a middle rotation forward who banged bodies and put up between 15 and 25 points a year. 

Things changed for Beleskey in 2014-15. At even strength, his most frequent linemate was Ryan Kesler (460+ minutes). He also spent about 160 minutes of 5-on-5 ice with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. What's particularly interesting is that each of those players got a zone start bump when they played with Beleskey versus when they were away from him. 

For example, Kesler + Beleskey had a zone start ratio of 53%. Kesler alone dropped down to 41%. The Beleskey + Perry combo enjoyed a 58.7% zone start, whereas Perry alone was 50.4%m while Beleskey + Getzlaf went from 59.4% together to just 49.0% for Getzlaf alone. 

A look at Beleskey's more advanced metrics gives us an idea of why Boudreau may have preferred to deploy him in the offensive zone with stars. According to Beleskey's Hero Chart, he tends to be decent at generating shots, but pretty lousy at suppressing them.

Beleskey

As you can see, Beleskey gets shots at a first liner rate, but his team surrenders shots at nearly a 4th liner rate when he's on the ice. Otherwise, his point rate seems pretty solid.

Things are strange with Beleskey even if we ignore his zone start usage. After years of being a mediocre possession player (at best), Beleskey actually jumped into above average territory this year. His drastic improvement is captured in two charts, the first from War on Ice and the second from Own the Puck:


Beleskey1

Beleskey2

Clearly, Beleskey has spent a majority of his career being a third line (or worse) forward in terms of possession play. For four out of his six seasons, he has been a negative influence in terms of shot rates for and against for his team. Which is why his ice time was capped at about 12 minutes per night by his coaches.

There has been a marked improvement in his game over the last two seasons by these measures, however. In 2013-14, his team's shot rate improved with him on the ice, enabling Beleskey to at least break even in terms of corsi overall. He took another step forward this past year in terms of both suppression and shot generation, putting him in the plus possession wise for the first time since he made the NHL. 

Future Performance

Belesky enjoyed, by far, the best shooting percentage of his career this season (15.2%), which is crazy good for a guy who was a single digit finisher up until now. 

If that was everything to Belesky's big jump, it would be easy to say GM's should probably avoid him. On the other hand, his noteworthy improvement in other areas of the game, particularly possession, suggest he might be a late bloomer. It's also possible, of course, that playing with guys like Getzlaf and Kesler helped drag Belesky's underlying numbers upwards. 

The longer history of mediocre play would make me wary of Belesky, despite the apparent improvement recently. Any team who might be interested in this player should probably have an established, two-way centerman to play him with and be prepared to start him more often in the offensive zone. In addition, they shouldn't expect Beleskey to be worth a damn when it comes to puck distribution - he is one of the rare players who has managed to collect more goals (57) than assists (55) over the course of his career.

That's a lot of caveats and ifs to spend money on in the off-season, but there might just be a useful player there in the right situation. 

It's unlikely Beleskey will put up another 15% scoring rate again next year, but he might sustain his goal production if a club that signs him gives him more ice time at ES and on the PP. He's unlikely to crack the 40-point plateau, however, given how poor he is at garnering assists. 

Contract Outlook 

Bryan Bickell is a good comparable for Beleskey, and not just because he pulled some playoff heroics that also inflated his offseason pricetag recently. Bickell also plays between 10-12 minutes per night and subs in with some of Chicago's stars now and then. Like Beleskey, he's good for between 20-30 points most seasons. 

Although Bickell's $4 million/year contract is now considered a blunder by most, it wouldn't surprise me if Beleskey manages to leverage his career year/playoff outburst for something similar. His underlying numbers this season hint at a player who may have unexpectedly turned the corner at 27-years, but it may also be an aberration, which would mean he'll be a rather expensive and average third line winger for someone. 

More from the Top-10 UFA Countdown

#10 - Johnny Oduya

#9 - Antti Niemi

#8 - Martin St. Louis

#7 - Christian Ehrhoff

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Former Nations Overlord. Current FN contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#1 Kurri_Flavor
June 16 2015, 11:06AM
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He has nice size, but he's not what we need for the price we will pay.

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#2 916oiler
June 16 2015, 11:19AM
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Do not want.

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#3 Oil4life
June 16 2015, 11:20AM
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shore up the D and net then we can tweek the forwards.

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#4 Cameo
June 16 2015, 11:20AM
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No more money spent on wingers please...

How's that trade for Hamilton or Larssen coming along??

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#5 IM80
June 16 2015, 11:21AM
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Can someone make an analytics graph for the Oilers performance vs. fans patience since 2007.....

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#6 IM80
June 16 2015, 11:21AM
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Oil4life wrote:

shore up the D and net then we can tweek the forwards.

This. In this order.

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#7 backburner
June 16 2015, 11:29AM
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Was sure a thorn in Calgary's side.. can definitely tip pucks. But would not over pay for him.

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#8 radicator
June 16 2015, 11:40AM
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Not heavy enough to protect a team's top players. Flash in the pan, I believe, and coach was unwilling to use him in the D zone. Too many warning signs and I bet execs will wisely proceed with caution. Except maybe Burke in Calgary.

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#9 RJ
June 16 2015, 11:44AM
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So if Bickell is overpaid at $4m, and Belesky could be overpaid at $4m, what does that make Purcell?

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#10 The GREAT Walter White
June 16 2015, 11:44AM
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Someone will overpay in salary and term.

Hopefully not the Flames...

WW

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#11 24% body fat
June 16 2015, 11:59AM
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RJ wrote:

So if Bickell is overpaid at $4m, and Belesky could be overpaid at $4m, what does that make Purcell?

permanently with out a contract next year

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#12 Petey
June 16 2015, 12:04PM
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RJ wrote:

So if Bickell is overpaid at $4m, and Belesky could be overpaid at $4m, what does that make Purcell?

A typical over paid, under-performing Oilers forward...

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#13 Zarny
June 16 2015, 12:06PM
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Yes, Bryan Bickell is a good comparable for Beleskey.

And if Beleskey gets anything close to $4M/yr it will be the same type of blunder.

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#14 Ca$h-Money!
June 16 2015, 12:20PM
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David Clarkson is another good comparable, though his production isn't quite what Clarkson's was.

Either way he's a player I'm happy to have on my team for $2 million on a shorter term deal... but that's about it.

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#15 Kurt
June 16 2015, 12:23PM
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The GREAT Walter White wrote:

Someone will overpay in salary and term.

Hopefully not the Flames...

WW

^^ THIS. Every year a guy like Belesky catches fire a bottle before going UFA. Way too early in our cycle to start risking an overpay for guys like that.

Anyone see the Bodog 2016 Stanley Cup odds released today? I guess they don't think the Flames 2015 season was legit... LOL. Really? Jets & Coilers have better odds?

https://twitter.com/GenePrincipe/status/610839990151479296

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#16 A-Mc
June 16 2015, 12:23PM
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For me, i'd pass.

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#17 everton fc
June 16 2015, 12:37PM
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Pass. (Looking for thumbs up on this one, people!)

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#18 redhot1
June 16 2015, 12:40PM
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This is the Clarkson situation almost to a tee. Twice many goals as assists, and a sky high shooting percentage from playing with good players.

We will look back on this signing and laugh one day. Hope its not the Flames.

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#19 srelio
June 16 2015, 12:40PM
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Id be happy going into next season with a new goalie and two new d (top 4). Unless a real value contract becomes available i wouldnt spend any cap on forwards. Just resign roy on the cheap and give players like pitlick and pakarinen chance to earn a roster spot.

I like forward depth as much as the next guy but we all know what the real problem is

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#20 Reg Dunlop
June 16 2015, 12:52PM
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Kurt wrote:

^^ THIS. Every year a guy like Belesky catches fire a bottle before going UFA. Way too early in our cycle to start risking an overpay for guys like that.

Anyone see the Bodog 2016 Stanley Cup odds released today? I guess they don't think the Flames 2015 season was legit... LOL. Really? Jets & Coilers have better odds?

https://twitter.com/GenePrincipe/status/610839990151479296

This jobber would be a perfect fit in cal-gary. Maybe the odds for the flames next season would increase from zero. Have a McDavid day!

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#21 OKG
June 16 2015, 01:05PM
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He lit up Engelland and Russell.

Which isn't much of an accomplishment. Stay away!

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#22 pkam
June 16 2015, 01:23PM
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Is he the 6th best UFA? Or it is written in random order?

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#23 Omar 49
June 16 2015, 01:30PM
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Perfect example of a guy who can be a good role player and up his game if placed with high end talent but who will be a complete flop if placed with a team that's rebuilding. He needs other to make him look good. Keep away from him.

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#24 Fredflint
June 16 2015, 01:30PM
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Reg Dunlop wrote:

This jobber would be a perfect fit in cal-gary. Maybe the odds for the flames next season would increase from zero. Have a McDavid day!

Is that the same as Have a Nuge day or have a Hall day?

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#25 Reg Dunlop
June 16 2015, 01:43PM
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Fredflint wrote:

Is that the same as Have a Nuge day or have a Hall day?

Not really. When the flames won the cup, the one and only cup the mighty Oil allowed them to win, it was like Hall day. Add beer and strippers and Santa Claus to that and BINGO... you have a McDavid day!

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#26 fran huckzky
June 16 2015, 02:02PM
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One years playoff performance means nada.Remember Kris Kontos??

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#27 Zarny
June 16 2015, 03:35PM
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And John Druce

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#28 abbeef
June 16 2015, 03:48PM
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Fredflint wrote:

Is that the same as Have a Nuge day or have a Hall day?

Do you follow hockey? I think you should look up Connor McDavid.

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#29 Alt
June 16 2015, 05:00PM
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abbeef wrote:

Do you follow hockey? I think you should look up Connor McDavid.

Isn't he the newest member of the Bingo Boys.

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#30 Wax Man Riley
June 16 2015, 05:03PM
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fran huckzky wrote:

One years playoff performance means nada.Remember Kris Kontos??

No.

lol

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#31 Gofucoffee
June 16 2015, 05:50PM
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Hey, I had this guy in my fantasy draft this year and he hits everything. Big time grit and he's one of those hard to play against types. 2 yrs at 2.2

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#32 GeneralJultz
June 16 2015, 05:52PM
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Decent size, decent offensively, bad defensively, 3rd line winger or worse, ~20 goals in a breakout season..... sounds a lot like Ryan Jones!

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#33 Tomas Oppolzer
June 16 2015, 06:42PM
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@Reg Dunlop

The comments were so classy until you decided to post. Way to go ya goof.

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#34 marty62
June 16 2015, 08:09PM
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Gee yeah! that s what we are missing, a run of the mill 3rd line winger. That will solve all our problems on defense and in net. how come no one saw that before.....

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