As an unrestricted free agent and a commodity on the market, the 6'0'', 204-pound winger had an opportunity during the NHL’s interview period to visit cities and speak with teams about his future.
Beleskey was coming off a torrid 2015 postseason with the Anaheim that saw him net eight goals in 16 games, at one point scoring in five straight contests, as the Ducks took the Chicago Blackhawks to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final before being eliminated.
He preceded that with a 2014-15 season in which he doubled his output, scoring a career-high 22 goals and 32 points through 65 games.
The Bruins weren’t the only team who were targeting Beleskey’s services, but in the end, they were the only team handing out a new five-year contract to the 27-year-old through the 2019-20 season. It is worth an annual cap figure of $3,800,000.
“It was a very hectic day,” Beleskey said via phone on Wednesday night once the deal was finalized. “I couldn’t be happier where me and my family have landed in Boston. That’s been a team that we’ve always liked and we talked about leading up to this and it’s just amazing that it ends up that way.”
“Boston’s always been a team that I’ve watched. Obviously, the ‘Big Bad Bruins’ has been something I’ve loved as a player and as a fan of the game,” he said. “You know, guys like Cam Neely you watch as a kid, you look up to. An Original Six team with an amazing fan base.”
“I actually got to play there for the first time in my career last year and it was just a great feeling playing in that building, and I’m extremely excited to wear the ‘B’ on my chest this season and for the next five years.”
Beleskey had been to Boston with his wife before, for a wedding last summer. He didn’t make a trip during the interview period, like he reportedly did to Toronto and Montreal. But he knew it would be the right fit.
“It was interesting,” Beleskey said of the process. “I’ve never been traded through junior or professionally, I’ve always been with the Ducks so I’ve never really gotten to see what other situations and teams are like, but it was eye-opening to get out there and see some teams.”
“The fact that Boston showed so much interest in me and really wanted to have me, it’s a great feeling being able to come to a team that I’ve always looked at as a great place to play and a great city.”
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and his staff had their sights set on Beleskey early on.
“He was always identified as one of the top free agents in the market for us,” said Sweeney. “Obviously, he had a breakout year, he had a very, very strong playoff that he followed up from a breakout year offensively, goal-production wise; his style of play was something that we identified that we were missing in our group; and it was just a real good opportunity to pursue a player that we coveted.”
That style? A hard-nosed, get-to-the-net attitude.
“We want players that have the skill, they have the will to go out and battle and win,” said Sweeney.
You don’t have to go far to find evidence of that attitude.
Pull up Beleskey’s last two goals of the 2015 playoffs. He scored from the front of the net with an extra attacker on to pull Anaheim within two goals of Chicago in the final minute of Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. Two games prior, he had fired in a rebound after going hard to the net to lift the Ducks over the ‘Hawks in overtime of Game 5.
After he scored, he got tripped up and sailed through the air, before crawling his way out of the celebration pile that ensued on top of him and showing intense emotion, letting out a yell with his arms raised to the fans and his teammates.
“You know, that’s my fourth time in the NHL playoffs and every year, it’s gotten better and I learn more each time,” said Beleskey. “And I felt this year, I took a big step in helping our team succeed and helping us get to the next level.”
“I’m ready for playoffs - playoffs is the hockey that I love, that’s what I live for. I can’t wait to be able to do that in Boston.”
After missing the postseason for the first time in eight years, the Bruins are retooling to get back there - and they’re going to do it by having a responsible, hard-working team that’s held accountable every night. Beleskey no doubt fits that mold.
With 329 career NHL games under his belt since 2009, the left-shot gained a high level of confidence in 2014-15 with his output. He wanted to build that into a strong 2015-16 campaign.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence,” Beleskey said of his season. “Being put in situations to score and being put with great players, I feel coming to Boston, there’s a lot of great young players, guys who have been around and guys who have won Stanley Cups. I think the experience is there.”
“And I think the style of play that I play is going to be useful in Boston. I think after being able to score some goals and get that confidence, I’m looking forward to next year. I’m looking forward to doing the same thing.”
It was important for Beleskey to sign that five-year term. He wants to be in a place that wants to help him find success.
“Getting on a term like that it shows their faith in me as a player, and it just excites me for things to come,” he said.
“The courting process starts a long time ago,” said Sweeney. “Obviously, there were a few twists and turns to be able to get to that position, but very, very excited when we had the opportunity to formalize things. A lot was thrown at Matt from a bunch of different directions, and he was incredibly patient because I think he felt that there was a real good opportunity here, and I think both sides realized that once we were able to get it lined up accordingly that we were equally as excited to make sure it happened.”
Beleskey could possibly slot in on David Krejci’s left wing come training camp. His strength and shoot-first mentality would complement the centerman.
Coming from a Ducks organizations that has strength up the middle in Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler (who Beleksey mostly played with), the winger should fit right in alongside the likes of Krejci and Patrice Bergeron.
“The chance to play with those guys is awesome,” said Beleskey. “They’re two great player, premier centers in the NHL and they both move the puck extremely well.”
“I’m a guy that - I obviously like to shoot the puck and got to the net. You watch the way that they can create plays and they’re both great in the faceoff circle, it’s a great opportunity to have the chance to play with them. And you have young guys like [Ryan] Spooner coming up, who are also extremely creative. So it’s just exciting to be able to come to a team like that.”
Beleskey doesn’t know any current Bruins. He’s heard from former Bruin Nate Thompson (his teammate on the Ducks) and friends around Boston, but he’s excited to take everything in firsthand.
“Playing there this year, you see the passion of the fans,” he said. “And already just through social media how much they’ve already gotten behind me and supported me, it’s just a really great feeling.”