Matt Beleskey’s sputtering 2016-17 season came to a close in his annual exit meeting with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney.
There was a lot Beleskey wanted to forget, such as the knee injury that cost him six weeks. His three goals and five assists — the lowest point total of his career — wasn’t much to remember, either.
In that meeting, Sweeney reiterated his faith in Beleskey, who has a $3.8 million cap hit in each of the next three seasons. Yet Beleskey was left in an unsettling position, knowing that the Bruins almost certainly would leave him exposed in the expansion draft over the summer.
“At the end-of-the-year meeting, he told me what he expected of me and what his plans were and we went from there,” Beleskey said. “It was positive.
“Don said the best thing I could do for this team is be the player I can be, and that’s what I’m trying to do. They picked me up for a reason, to play my game, and that’s the aspect I need to bring.
“One thing I’ve been good at is rolling with the punches. And to be honest, I didn’t expect them to protect me. It’s business, so no hard feelings on that aspect.”
Beleskey indeed went unprotected, but the expansion draft passed with the Las Vegas Golden Knights plucking young defenseman Colin Miller from the Boston roster. Beleskey, his fate settled for now, is eager to show the organization he can provide a positive return on the investment in him.
After Beleskey compiled 22 goals and 10 assists for the Anaheim Ducks in 2014 — his best pro season to that point — the Bruins rewarded him with five-year, $19 million contract. He responded well in his first season in Boston, with 15 goals and 22 assists for a career-high 37 points.
Last season was a challenging one for the 29-year-old even before the knee injury, which forced him out from Dec. 3 to Jan. 20. In 23 games before the injury, he scored just two goals and had three assists.
Beleskey was paid to bring energy to the lineup and chip in 15-20 goals. Instead his second season was a dud.
“It’s definitely not what I wanted last year, and I want to get going,” Beleskey said. “I’ve just got to have some confidence and stick with my game. I don’t think you lose your hockey-playing ability in one year. I came off my best year of my career in the year before that, so I just need to use my confidence and work hard.
“I was frustrated last year, but it’s hockey. It’s so fun. Just got to enjoy it, come here and have fun.”
Beleskey said the knee still hindered him at the start of the summer but is “feeling better now.” He spent the first 3-4 weeks of the offseason home in Ontario with his daughter, Ivy, who was born in March.
He altered his diet to what he called “simplified eating” and said he has lost a few pounds, and changed other aspects of his training, such as adding exercises to improve his breathing.
When the Bruins report for training camp Sept. 14, there will be plenty of competition to push Beleskey. Despite the worst season of his career, he will rely on his experience to help him bounce back and is confident he can be an effective force in the lineup.
“I don’t think they’re going to pay me four million bucks to sit on the bench,” Beleskey said. “I know there’s a lot of kids coming into camp, but there’s not a lot of kids who have played 10 years in the league either.”