By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
When the Bruins signed forward Matt Beleskey to a five-year contract worth an annual charge against the NHL salary cap of $3.8 million on July 1, 2015, they thought they were adding a veteran piece to help them return to prominence and the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ironically, Beleskey enjoyed a solid, fine first season with the Bruins in 2015-16, but Boston missed the playoffs for the second straight year. This season, as they made their way back to the playoffs, Beleskey had a season from hell.
Beleskey started slowly and went without a point in the Bruins’ first 10 games. He had two goals and three assists in 23 games total when Buffalo defenseman Taylor Fedun knocked Beleskey’s season off the rails on Dec. 3, delivering a low hit that resulted in a trip to the injured reserve and a six-week absence for the Boston left wing.
Beleskey finished with eight points (three goals, five assists) in 49 games before getting into just three of the six postseason games against Ottawa.
Although it was clear the injury made a major impact on Beleskey’s season, he didn’t want to use it as an excuse in the aftermath of his disappointing campaign.
“Yeah, I was [100 percent],” Beleskey said. “Obviously it’s tough. You start playing well, you get injured, you struggle in a season with little or no practice, players jump in hoping to be up to pace. Obviously … your confidence kind of goes down, opportunity goes down and it’s a tough hill to climb.
“So that’s that and I think the guys battled hard, we battled hard to make the playoffs, that series could’ve gone either way. I think a lot of us learned some stuff in playoffs here.”
Luckily for Beleskey and the Bruins, there is a next season that could provide an opportunity for redemption – assuming the Bruins retain Beleskey’s services. The Beleskey signing isn’t a total bust yet because he had 37 points (15 goals, 22 assists) in 80 games during his inaugural season with Boston and has been a positive influence on younger players in the dressing room.
The Bruins probably could’ve dumped Beleskey for a low draft pick at the trade deadline but they opted to see what they could get out of him rather than for him. He didn’t make the playoff impact he did in Anaheim (13 goals, four assists in 34 playoff games over four postseasons) and the Bruins could’ve used his contribution against the frustrating Senators.
Nonetheless, assuming he survives the expansion draft (he might be an intriguing veteran addition to Vegas’ bottom six) and Boston general manager Don Sweeney’s roster tune-up, Beleskey’s eager to make up for his lost year.
“This is going to be a big summer for me. We’re sticking around here, we’re going to train here with all the facility and everything available to me here. I think this will be a great summer for me here in Boston and I’m looking forward to next season,” Beleskey said.
“Like I’ve said before, I’ve made a commitment to this city, they made a commitment to me and I owe a much better year than this year and I can guarantee you it won’t happen again.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.