As of 1:30 p.m., the Pittsburgh Penguins trade with the Florida Panthers is still on hold. Wednesday morning, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford completed the latest Penguins trade when he agreed to ship the two-time Stanley Cup winner, RW Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for left-side defenseman Mike Matheson.
UPDATE: According to a team source, the trade has been held up as the Penguins have been unable to reach Hornqvist to affirm the trade. Hornqvist has a full no-trade clause. Later, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the deal was delayed due to insurance holdups. And, finally, the Penguins source confirmed to PHN the insurance issue and the lack of contact were connected.
On the surface, it may be a perplexing deal that doesn’t create salary-cap space for the Pittsburgh Penguins. If the trade goes through, Matheson, 26, will become the fifth left-handed defenseman on the Penguins NHL roster. His contract extends for six more seasons at an AAV of $4.825 million.
Hornqvist, 33, has three more seasons remaining at $5.3 million. So, the Penguins trade would save the team less than $500,000 per year.
Matheson has a modified eight-team no-trade-clause, but it will not kick in until the next offseason, according to CapFriendly.com.
Hornqvist has been a staple in front of the opponent’s net since the Penguins acquired him for popular winger James Neal in the summer of 2014. It was Rutherford’s first trade as GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This season, Hornqvist scored 16 goals in 52 games.
Matheson is a mobile, puck-moving left-handed defenseman who can run a power play. He scored 20 points (8g, 12a) in 59 games this season and averaged just over 18 minutes per game.
The Point-Claire, QC native, was Florida’s first-round pick in 2012 (23rd overall) and played one season in the USHL and three seasons at Boston College.
In recent seasons, Florida Hockey Now reports Matheson has been hampered by confidence issues that have submarined his effectiveness. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound defenseman is an offensive D-man but has struggled to defend, especially in recent seasons. He was a healthy scratch for Games 3 and 4 of the Florida Qualifying Round loss to the New York Islanders.
“Some Florida Panthers fans might simply refer to him as a disaster,” National Hockey Now reporter Rob Simpson wrote from the Toronto bubble in August.
Matheson’s contract is also backloaded, which would fall on the Penguins. He has been paid only $7 million of his $39 million contract. His actual salary will balloon to $6.5 million in the final three seasons of the deal, including three consecutive $2.5 million bonuses.
In four-plus NHL seasons, Matheson has played 299 games, scored 91 points (33g, 58a), and is a combined minus-30. In 2018-19, Matheson committed an ungodly 135 turnovers but limited that number to only 54 this season. Observers around the Panthers and inside the organization still have a lot of hope for him to resurrect his career.
Hornqvist famously scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.
The move would seem to open the Penguins to additional action, as the team now has a glut of left-side defensemen. Brian Dumoulin, Marcus-Pettersson, Jack Johnson, and Juusso Riikola are currently on the NHL roster, and top prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph is close to being NHL-ready.
PHN will have more analysis shortly and when the news becomes official.