Thoughts on the Matheson For Hornqvist Trade

After a day’s worth of speculation, the trade between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers is now official. The Penguins continued their recent dealing spree, as they sent veteran Patric Hornqvist to the Panthers in exchange for defenseman Michael Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour. It has been eleven days since the hiring of new GM Bill Zito in Florida, and he definitely made a statement with his first career trade.

For the first time in a decade, the Panthers have new leadership in the front office. Former GM Dale Tallon was fired after the team’s early exit in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifying round at the hands of the New York Islanders in four games. It has been twenty-four seasons since the Florida Panthers won a playoff round, and it’s expected that after another disappointing campaign, changes are in order for their core. Interestingly enough, Bill Zito hired former Minnesota Wild GM, and Nashville Predators assistant GM, Paul Fenton to be an advisor to him. Fenton actually played a role in drafting Patric Hornqvist with the last pick in the 2005 NHL draft, which is one of the instances why people consider him to be a talented scout.

Adding Hornqvist is certainly a step in the right direction, and it shows that the Zito led front office is bringing in the right type of players to help this group. Since 2007-08 (the first year of our database,) Patric Hornqvist has been a positive player in every season. In twelve years of data, Hornqvist’s career AB score is a +5.98, which is incredible given his lengthy career. In these 12 years, Hornqvist averaged 64 games played, 19.8 goals, 20 assists and 40 points all while playing 15.65 minutes per night. He also averaged 0.6 more drawn penalties than penalties taken per season in his career and an above average +13 takeaway/giveaway per season ratio for his career. Lastly, he averages a +7 career +/- number. Hornqvist makes $5.3 million until 2023, and has a modified no trade clause, meaning Florida may have to protect him in the upcoming expansion draft. This move actually saves the Panthers about 750k in salary according to Cap Friendly. Another interesting fact could be that the Panthers have only two players signed after the 2022-23 NHL season. Only the Blackhawks, Devils, Canucks, Blue Jackets, and Red Wings have less. This is only the first of many expected moves for the Panthers this offseason, as they still need to address whether or not to re-sign pending UFA’s Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. For more information on these contract situations check out our Hoffman and Dadonov article here.

As for the Penguins perspective, fans and league executives continue to wonder what is going on in the mind of GM Jim Rutherford. While this Matheson acquisition is somewhat reminiscent of the Justin Schultz acquisition of the past, Rutherford gave up much more than a third-round pick for this gamble. Schultz also wasn’t locked up to a massive contract at the time of the trade, which also made it less of a gamble. Rutherford is banking on the coaching of former Capitals head coach, Todd Reirden, to re-ignite his defensive corps. Matheson has a lot to improve upon, as according to The Point Twitter Account, Matheson turns the puck over almost 1/5 puck possessions at even strength. This is simply inexcusable for a defenseman making $4.875 million over the next six seasons. His AB numbers also reflect this trend. In the four years of data we have on Matheson, he has registered a negative score all four times, including a career worst -15.86 score in 2018-19. Career wise, Matheson has taken ten more penalties than he has drawn, turned the puck over 108 times more than he has taken it away, and is -31 +/- wise. However, he registered a -0.93 score last season under Joel Quenneville’s coaching staff, which was the best of his career. If he made that big of a jump under Quenneville, perhaps Rutherford thinks his upward trend will continue under Sullivan and Reirden. If that is the case, and Matheson becomes that legitimate Top-4 defenseman Pittsburgh needs, this could be a very good trade for the Pens. They also acquired Colton Sceviour, who, in seven years’ worth of data, is also a career positive AB player (+0.07). In fact, 5/6 of the last seasons Sceviour played in were positive, with the exception of a very low -6.97 score in his first season in Florida. At thirty-one years of age, Sceviour makes $1.2 million until 2021.

This is the third trade of what’s already been a busy start to the offseason for Jim Rutherford and the Penguins, as they’ve already traded for Kasperi Kapanen (article here), and dealt Nick Bjugstad to his home state of Minnesota in exchange for cap relief. With the NHL draft being twelve days away, we will certainly be paying attention to Rutherford and Zito, as both men continue to try and improve their teams in this new flat-cap era. Get ready hockey fans, the next 2-3 weeks will be incredibly entertaining off the ice. Much more to come.

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