On June 26, 2015, the Bruins traded Milan Lucic to Los Angeles. Five days later, in their pursuit of a left wing to fill part of Lucic’s presence, they signed Matt Beleskey to a five-year, $19 million contract. On the same day, the Bruins traded Reilly Smith and Marc Savard to Florida for Jimmy Hayes.
Beleskey was coming off an eight-goal blitzkrieg in 16 playoff games for Anaheim in which he buried 17.8 percent of his 45 shots. In retrospect, Beleskey’s postseason performance was more of an exception than an emergence.
On Thursday, with 14 games of zero-point results as evidence, the Bruins placed Beleskey on waivers, opening a spot for Ryan Spooner off injured reserve. The 29-year-old Beleskey will be available through noon on Friday for 30 teams to take him for nothing more than a waivers claim.
The contractual cost of doing so, however, will discourage any of the Bruins’ competitors from making a claim.
Beleskey is signed for two more seasons after this one. A team taking Beleskey on waivers would have to assume the $7 million in salary he is due in the next two years. Based on history, it is not just a 14-game bracket of unlucky zeroes Beleskey has posted.
Beleskey (8.9 percent career shooting percentage) scored only three goals and five assists in 49 games last season, missing time because of a knee injury. He was a healthy scratch for half of the first round against Ottawa.
This season, Beleskey wore suit and tie for 10 of the last 11 games. Beleskey had become a game-chaser, unable, for whatever reason, to dictate pace of play, even after an offseason of training to lose weight and improve his speed.
He reported to Boston behind Brad Marchand on the left-side depth chart. It didn’t take long for Jake DeBrusk, Tim Schaller, and Frank Vatrano to pass him during camp. Once the season started, Spooner, Danton Heinen, Kenny Agostino, and Peter Cehlarik got looks at left wing higher in the lineup. Beleskey watched the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime win over Detroit squarely parked behind Marchand, DeBrusk, Heinen, and Schaller. He has little chance at playing time outside of injuries to incumbents.
So the Bruins will assign Beleskey to Providence on Friday. The Bruins will receive a prorated $1.025 million of cap relief off Beleskey’s $3.8 million average annual value. They have not closed the books on Beleskey’s NHL season.
“We’ve got guys ahead of him in the lineup,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “The team’s winning. Not a lot of practice time. We just feel as a group that the best way he can help the Boston Bruins is to play and hopefully find his game to where it’s productive at our level. This is the first step in that. Matt has practiced hard. He’s been a really good teammate. He’s well-liked by his guys in the room. Lot of respect for the coaching staff. We just felt this was the best avenue to help himself and help us.”
Providence plays Syracuse on Friday and Hershey on Saturday. Once Beleskey gets into uniform, the Bruins hope he can reclaim his game and be called upon to contribute in the NHL once more. If not, the Bruins might have to buy out Beleskey as they did with Hayes, his good friend, in June.
If so, Beleskey will be due two-thirds of the remaining $7 million on his deal. The Bruins would have to carry $1,166,667 toward their cap number for four years starting in 2018-19. They are already committed to Hayes ($866,667) and Dennis Seidenberg ($1,116,667) in buyout money next year.
Kevan Miller returned to the lineup against Washington. Miller did not play against Detroit because he remained in Boston with wife Haley and daughter Remy, who was born on Tuesday. Remy is the Millers’ first child.
With Miller unavailable, Paul Postma played 8:47 as the No. 6 defenseman against the Red Wings.