Pittsburgh Penguins’ General Manager Jim Rutheford has shocked the hockey world again with yet another bizarre trade. Most people are having a tough time trying to figure out what exactly he is trying to do with his team.
After sending forward Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers in exchange for forward Colton Sceviour and defensemen Mike Matheson, everyone is still left scratching their heads.
Hornqvist will likely go down as the most successful “Mr. Irrelevant” in the history of the NHL. He is a two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Penguins after being selected last by the Nashville Predators in the same draft Sidney Crosby was taken first overall.
In six seasons with the Penguins, Hornqvist appeared in 407 games amassing 132 goals and 132 assists for 264 points. He also played 66 playoff games for the team scoring 22 goals and adding 16 assists for 38 points. He scored the Cup-winning goal in 2017 against his former team the Nashville Predators to win back to back championships for Pittsburgh.
Hornqvist was a fan-favorite in Pittsburgh, known for his ferocity in front of the net which is where he earned his paydays. Very few players across the league had a net-front presence that could rival his.
His contract carries a cap hit of $5.3 million for the next three seasons and will expire when he is 36.
In the other direction comes Sceviour with a cap hit of $1.2 million for just the next season, a nine-year veteran of the league who spent time as a depth forward for the Dallas Stars before arriving in Florida in 2016.
Sceviour has never played a full 82 game season in his career and has only scored more than ten goals just twice. He also has only put up a CF% above fifty twice and hasn’t since he was with the Stars.
He’ll definitely have better linemates to play with here in Pittsburgh than he did in Florida and will likely get playing time on the penalty kill where he has been effective in his career.
Matheson comes with a bigger cap hit of $4.875 million for a whopping six more years, the only Penguin's contract signed through 2026. He is only 26 years old.
The left-handed defensemen ha
s scored 20 or more points in each of his last three seasons in Florida and has severely decreased the number of penalties he has taken since his first full season in the league.
In 2018-19 he had an absolutely abysmal 135 giveaways, a number he significantly reduced last season down to just 54. Many analysts believe his tendency to turn the puck over in the defensive and neutral zone is the main knock on him as a player.
Matheson’s biggest strength and what will make him fit in Pittsburgh is his skating. The man can fly from end to end and provide a necessary physicality even deep in the offensive zone.
He enters a Penguins’ left defense core that currently has six NHL caliber talents. Brian Dumoulin is a lock for the top pairing as he is among the best defensive defensemen throughout the whole league. Marcus Pettersson was just given a brand new $4.025 million dollar contract that will last for five more seasons. Juuso Riikola was just given a $1.150 million dollar contract. Jack Johnson is still employed, and prospect Pierre-Olivier Joseph may be ready to make his jump to the NHL.
So it looks as though whatever Rutherford is attempting to accomplish here on the backend for the Penguins is going to require more moves since there are only three right-handed shots employed by the team.
The two most likely to be traded in that group are Pettersson and Johnson, and based on prior history we all know in our minds which one of those two is the most probable to get traded. This would only add to the amount of head-scratching moves made by Rutherford the past couple of seasons.
They still have roughly $6.1 million in cap space to work with, but it is reported that the team will not be able to spend to the cap limit based on reduced revenue from the pandemic and early playoff exits.
Matheson may be a little pricey on the surface, but if Johnson gets moved and the team avoids signing Chris Tanev for an absurd amount of money, the situation won’t be as bleak as many fans believe it to be.