Ryan Spooner has been brilliant in his brief tenure with the New York Rangers. Since swapping jerseys Spooner has put up 13 points in 10 games on Broadway; so it’s safe to say he’s been something of a hit. But Spooner wasn’t the only NHL forward the Rangers acquired in the Rick Nash trade.
Matt Beleskey is not the first player who failed to live up to a big contract he signed as a free agent, and he won’t be the last. After posting 22 goals in 65 games in 2014-15 with the Anaheim Ducks, Beleskey signed a five-year, $19 million contract with the Bruins. Needless to say, things didn’t work out in Boston. Beleskey was playing in the AHL with Providence when he was dealt to the Rangers; he was sent down in December after failing to register a point in 14 games.
It’s no mystery that Beleskey became a Ranger because the Bruins had to (and wanted to) make room for Nash. Jeff Gorton took Beleskey off of Boston’s hands on the condition that the Bruins retained half of his salary. Beleskey carries a cap hit of $875,000 for New York while he remains buried in Hartford this year. He’s signed through the 2019-20 season and will be 30 this June.
Beleskey has been with the Wolf Pack for nine games now and the early signs have been somewhat promising. He has registered 17 shots since his Wolf Pack debut on February 25 in addition to scoring a goal and picking up four assists. Not bad for nine games of AHL hockey, especially for a guy who scored four goals and picked up two assists in 21 games with Providence before changing jerseys.
We can safely assume that Beleskey does not have another 20 goal NHL season in his stick, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer an NHL forward. So, what does Beleskey mean to the Rangers now that he’s here?
Some believe that Beleskey could make the Rangers roster as a fourth liner next season. The underlying numbers suggest that the veteran winger could excel in that role under the right circumstances — the right circumstances in this case meaning a sheltered role. The Rangers’ front office has made it clear that it wants character players to be a part of this transition and Beleskey has plenty of character.
I am working my ass off to be the best player I️ can be. I hope all Boston faithful know that! I️ want nothing more then to help this team win anyway I️ can. https://t.co/gjZZXTWCUf— Matt Beleskey (@Matt_Beleskey) November 22, 2017
Another possible scenario is that Beleskey fills the role of the Wolf Pack’s resident veteran moving forward. Hartford lost its captain Joe Whitney and alternate captain Ryan Graves in trades this season, so there’s definitely a hole to fill there. Beleskey’s experience and work ethic makes him a natural fit in a leadership role for a Wolf Pack team that has gone through all kinds of changes in the past two years.
Beleskey needed a change of scenery in a big, bad way. In New York Beleskey has the fresh start that he so badly needed. As a part of the Rangers organization he’s no longer skating in the shadow of a contract he can’t live up to. Beleskey’s change of scenery has brought with it a whole new set of expectations and an opportunity to re-establish himself as a depth NHL forward.