The Pittsburgh Penguins trade fallout continued after the Penguins traded Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mike Matheson and bottom line forward Colton Sceviour. The move may have been the last significant addition of the Penguins offseason, according to GM Jim Rutherford, who spoke on the Penguins flagship radio station to host Mark Madden, as the GM also firmly removed any speculation around a pair of defensemen.
As PHN cautioned fans on Thursday, and Rutherford also expressed the possibility bordering on probability, the Penguins third defense pairing will be Matheson on the left side and Johnson back to the right side, where he began his Penguins career last season.
However, Rutherford indicated he was evaluating a trade, though it would certainly not involve left d-men Brian Dumoulin or Marcus Pettersson.
“I think it’s fair to say if we were playing a game tonight is going to be Dumoulin, Pettersson, and Matheson. We’re going to have to move somebody out, or somebody is going to have to play the right side. We’re just working through that now, looking at what the options are.”
Rutherford firmly closed the door and said he would not listen to offers for Dumoulin or Pettersson. Still, he left open the possibility the Penguins could insert depth defenseman Chad Ruhwedel.
“(The Hornqvist trade) means (Jack Johnson) will have to play the right side, or he wouldn’t be in the lineup,” Rutherford said. “I think Chad Ruhwedel has more to give. (Ruhwedel is a very consistent guy.
“It will be very competitive for that sixth spot.”
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan has not in the previous two seasons inserted Ruhwedel ahead of Johnson, even when Johnson was forced to play on his off side, so it seems at least a likelihood the Penguins third pair will be Matheson-Johnson.
Rutherford expressed confidence that Matheson will easily overcome his multi-year struggles with the help of Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden and head coach Mike Sullivan. Rutherford also confirmed PHN’s scouting report that Matheson’s has crashed in the last two seasons, and confidence has been an issue.
“He can really skate. He’s got to adjust his game a little bit, but with our coaching staff, we feel he can do that. It was one of those trades that was tough to make the decision on, but when you break it all down, we felt we had to do it.
He was really good when he came into the league. It’s my understanding now, maybe at times he tries to do too much,” Rutherford said. “At certain times when a play is not there, and when it doesn’t work out, he’s hard on himself … that’s what he’s going to have to work on and fix. But, as for his footspeed, and being able to jump into the play … he can certainly play the style of play that we want to play.”
As for free agency and additional splashes, Rutherford downplayed those possibilities. According to the GM, the Penguins will not be active in the first 48 hours of free agency, but may look at players “who fall through the cracks.”
That would seem to end any speculation or Penguins rumors surrounding Vancouver Canucks defenseman Chris Tanev.
Rutherford also indirectly confirmed Penguins goalie Matt Murray will be traded, but also seemed to indicate Dominik Simon could be traded or non-tendered.
“We do have two restricted free agents, Murray and Simon, that will be tough to fit into our cap,” the Penguins GM said. “We’re going to have to see where this goes in the next 10 days, as to what the possibilities are.”
At the beginning of the interview, Rutherford did concede the Pittsburgh Penguins cannot replace Patric Hornqvist but his reduced role moving forward made him expendable.
“No. We don’t (have anyone who can fill that role). Make no mistake, Patric is going to be missed.”