LAS VEGAS (AP) Ducks general manager Bob Murray thinks forward Matt Beleskey is probably on his way out of Anaheim.
After the NHL general managers’ meeting in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Murray said Beleskey’s camp recently rejected the Ducks’ latest contract offer ”immediately.” After scoring a career-best 22 goals, Beleskey will hit the free-agent market on July 1 unless he reaches a deal with Anaheim.
”I don’t think there’s anything else happening there,” Murray said. ”When we kept him at the trade deadline, I doubted it was going to work, and they obviously feel they’re going to do a lot better (in free agency). I’m very comfortable with the offer we made. We made a really good offer.”
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Beleskey has spent his entire career with the Ducks, developing from the 112th overall pick in 2006 into a solid NHL scorer. The left wing capped his breakout season with eight playoff goals this spring, including the overtime winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, Anaheim’s final victory of the season.
Beleskey didn’t even nail down a regular NHL job until the past two years, and he has just 57 regular-season goals. Yet he is among the top handful of available forwards in a thin free-agent class, and Murray is discouraged by the likely prospect of losing a homegrown talent.
”This is a guy, I was a big part of drafting him, so it’s always difficult,” Murray said. ”We’ve drafted. We’ve developed. We’ve done a lot of work here, and we’ve turned him into a pretty good hockey player.”
Murray nearly dealt Beleskey at the trade deadline, hoping to get something for a possibly vanishing asset. The GM decided to keep his core together, and Beleskey returned from a late-season injury to have a strong playoff for the three-time Pacific Division champion Ducks, who fell one game short of the Stanley Cup Final.
”I had a deal,” Murray said. ”I just said, `No.’ That was wrong for my hockey team, and he played very well in the playoffs. Would have been just a totally wrong message.”
Beleskey’s teammates hope he will return for another shot at the title, but they also understand his situation. Captain Ryan Getzlaf played golf with Beleskey two weeks ago.
”I know Matt wants to play in Anaheim,” Getzlaf said. ”It’s not something that he ever had to say. … If he goes, that’s a space you’ve got to fill. He played good minutes for us last year, put up some good points and scored some timely goals. If he stays, that’s another guy who wants to be here, who’s been through the same things we have. I think it’s important when you’re building an organization, as much as you can, to keep the guys around who have come up in it and grown together.”
Murray and Getzlaf are more optimistic about retaining defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who has been open about wanting to finish his career in Anaheim. The Ducks already have nearly $48.7 million in salary committed for the upcoming season.
But the Ducks’ success has made them vulnerable in free agency. Along with Ryan Kesler, who will be an unrestricted free agent next summer, Anaheim has several restricted free agents to sign in the next two years, including Jakob Silfverberg this year and defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen next year.
”It’s just the way it’s going to be from now on,” Murray said. ”You’re just going to let your free agents go, and you’re going to sign other free agents, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”