LAS VEGAS — Matt Beleskey’s days with the Anaheim Ducks appear to be over and his former general manager isn’t too happy about it.
Bob Murray doesn’t begrudge the 27-year-old winger for exercising his right to test unrestricted free agency, but doesn’t like a system that encourages so much player turnover. Beleskey was drafted by the Ducks in 2006 and is coming off a career-best 22-goal season.
“We made an offer and they rejected it immediately,” Murray said Tuesday. “So I don’t think there’s anything else happening there. I said that when we kept him at the trade deadline — that I doubted it was going to work — and they obviously feel they’re going to do a lot better.
“I’m very comfortable with the offer we made, we made a really good offer, and it’s just a part of hockey now.”
Beleskey is arguably the top forward available in a weak free agent class. He’s in line for a nice payday after earning $1.4-million last season.
The Ducks have made multiple attempts to sign him to an extension, but haven’t been able to bridge the gap in negotiations. Instead, the budget-conscious team is choosing to show restraint.
“We learned this the hard way a few years ago,” said Murray. “About overspending and getting yourself in trouble. We’ve made a really fair offer and God bless him if he gets more.”
Beleskey is a veteran of 329 NHL games, but often bounced between the Ducks and American Hockey League before solidifying a permanent spot last year.
As a pending free agent, Anaheim explored the possibility of dealing him at the deadline in February. However, with the Ducks looking like contenders Murray felt it “would have been the wrong message” to the rest of the team.
“I was a big part of drafting him so it’s always difficult,” he said of Beleskey. “We’ve developed. Like we’ve done a lot of work here and we’ve turned him into a pretty good hockey player. But I could have traded him, I could have traded him the day before the deadline — I had a deal — and I just said ‘no, that was wrong for my hockey team.’
“He played very well in the playoffs. So we didn’t get there, but we almost got there.”
Murray seemed confident that the Ducks still have a good shot to bring back veteran defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who is also eligible for free agency, but was in a wistful mood when it came to Beleskey.
He sees it as a sign of changing times in the NHL.
“It’s kind of funny, (Brian Burke) told me this years ago: ‘You know we’re going to be just like the NFL some day, 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,”‘ said Murray. “It’s kind of turning out to be that way.”