Michael Matheson is coming home to play for the Montreal Canadiens, the team he cheered for as a kid growing up in Pointe-Claire on the West Island of the city. The 28-year-old was acquired over the weekend from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Jeff Petry and Ryan Poehling.
Initially, Penguins general manager Ron Hextall didn’t want to include Matheson in the deal after his breakout season in 2021-22, but Habs general manager Kent Hughes insisted after receiving a glowing review from Kris Letang and ultimately got what he wished for, bringing in a top-4 defenseman who can help make up for the loss of both Petry and Alexander Romanov.
Here are a few interesting things to know about the Canadiens’ latest offseason addition.
He Has Some Canadiens Connections
Not only did Matheson spend his childhood just outside of Montreal rooting for the Habs, but he also played his U18 AAA hockey with the Lac St-Louis Lions alongside Jonathan Drouin, and they won the league title together in 2011.
He then opted for the NCAA route and spent three years playing at Boston College, serving as team captain for the 2014-15 season. His strong NCAA tenure allowed him to be a first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, selected at no. 23 overall by the Florida Panthers. He’s also represented Canada twice at the IIHF World Championship. Despite living in the United States for the better part of a decade, he showed off his still impeccable French during his introductory press conference.
In 2017, he signed an eight-year extension with the Panthers, a contract that was negotiated by Hughes, his long-time agent and now his new boss. Hughes called Matheson “a first-class human being, the kind of guy you would let marry your daughter” who he feels will be a great addition both on the ice as well as in the locker room, helping to guide and mentor his young teammates.
His Wife Is a Great Hockey Player Too
The Canadiens could solve the problems on the right side of their defence by signing Matheson’s wife, Emily Pfalzer, a standout on the blue line for Team USA who has won an Olympic gold medal to go along with four World Championships and many other accolades. She also helped the Buffalo Beauts capture the Isobel Cup during the second season of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL).
The couple met while both were playing at Boston College, got married in 2019, and they recently welcomed their first child. Her family hails from nearby Buffalo, New York so she won’t be too far from home either in Montreal.
Entering His Prime
Matheson had a rough go of it at times with the Panthers as he struggled to live up to his hefty contract but managed to take his game to a new level when he joined the Penguins in 2020 after being traded for Colton Sceviour and Patric Hornqvist.
This past season, he put up a career-high 11 goals and 31 points in 74 games and posted some rather impressive advanced stats.
He’s an effective puck-moving defenseman who skates like the wind and who excels at offensive zone entries, something the Canadiens struggled with last year. His style of play is quite similar to Petry’s who was also headed into his prime when he arrived in Montreal. He’s well equipped to play the up-tempo game that head coach Martin St. Louis wants his team to play, keeping constant pressure on their opponents instead of always retreating to the defensive end. In addition to being a leader, he’ll be counted on to log significant minutes in all situations. He’s excited to be joining forces with so many talented young players full of potential. In turn, they will greatly benefit from his presence and calm demeanour.
Matheson has always dreamed of playing for the Habs and his addition comes at a perfect time when the franchise needs him most to help during a transition period that will hopefully lead to sustainable success that he will continue to be a part of.
Melissa has been covering the Montreal Canadiens for The Hockey Writers since March of 2020. She is also THW’s Social Media & Marketing Manager as well as co-host of Chicks & Sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she spearheaded the social media initiatives for Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup and was the primary person responsible for their upkeep for over 10 years. She has written articles for multiple tennis websites and interviewed the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her career in sports started in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a journalism degree from Concordia University.