Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford has been active to start the offseason. Rutherford traded for Kasperi Kapanen, traded away Nick Bjugstad and re-signed Jared McCann. The general manager continues his aggressive approach to acquiring pieces that will help the team compete next season.
The Penguins traded Patric Hornqvist to the Florida Panthers for defenceman Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour. Matheson’s contract has six years left at $4.875 million per, while Sceviour’s contract has one year at $1.2 million.
On Wednesday afternoon, reports of the trade emerged, but it fell through due to Hornqvist’s no-trade clause. He has three seasons remaining on his contract at $5.3 million. Also, the Panthers were concerned, if in case of an injury, would his contract be covered. As for injuries, he has not played 82 games since the 2015-16 season. On Thursday afternoon, with the addition of Sceviour, the trade was complete.
The trade moves an important member of the team’s locker room in an attempt to improve their current situation. Many players on the Penguins believed Rutherford’s biggest mistake was trading away Carl Hagelin in 2017-18. Trading Hagelin ripped the locker room apart, and it leaves some to wonder what impact trading Hornqvist is going to have on the club. As for Matheson, he has 91 points in 299 games through five seasons with the Panthers and is excited to get a fresh start in Pittsburgh.
“I wish the season was starting tomorrow. It’s tough to get news like this and have to wait a few more months to be able to get on the ice with everyone. But I’m super excited to get going and to get to Pittsburgh, start practicing with the guys. It’s definitely given me a big spark and has given me a new life, new expectations for myself. And I just can’t wait to get started.”Matheson said about joining the Penguins.
It is hard to understand what Rutherford is attempting to do with this trade. The Penguins are trying to free up cap space, but with this trade, they end up with an increase in salary. There are likely more trades to come, as another defenceman on the Penguins may be on the move.
Potential Rust Trade
Bryan Rust had a career season as he posted 27 goals and 56 points in 55 games in 2019-20. The Athletic’s Rob Rossi and Josh Yohe reported teams have inquired about Rust. (from ‘What we’re hearing as Penguins trade talks heat up,’ The Athletic, 09/22/2020) He was an important role player for the club in the 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup runs, and with multiple key players injured this season, he stepped up for them. His 56 points were good for second on the Penguins this season.
As for trading away Rust, Rutherford does not want to move him, but would be open to a trade if the return is significant. Since the Penguins added Kapanen and are hoping he can play in their top six, Rust could be a useful trade piece if the return helps fill holes in other parts of the lineup. He does have a team-friendly contract at $3.5 million over the next two seasons. The Penguins only have a projected cap space of close to $6 million, and keeping the forward would be ideal, especially since his production is worth more than his contract.
Chris Tanev Signing
The Penguins will lose Justin Schultz this offseason and are interested in adding a right-handed defenceman through free agency. Chris Tanev, Brandon Tanev’s older brother, is set to be a free agent this offseason. They are willing to offer him a five-year contract at less than $5 million per season and are hoping it is enough since his younger brother plays on the Penguins.
Tanev is a shutdown defenceman and killed penalties with the Vancouver Canucks through his entire 10-season career. Last season, he played with Calder trophy runner-up Quinn Hughes, providing balance for the club’s top defensive pairing. Young defencemen such as Pierre-Olivier Joseph could benefit from playing alongside the 30-year-old. Tanev can ease Joseph’s transition to the NHL, similar to how he helped Hughes in 2019-20.
With the addition of Matheson, who can play on the right side, the Penguins may avoid signing another defender since they already have Kris Letang and John Marino playing on the right side.
There have been rumors of a potential Marc-Andre Fleury reunion with the Penguins. With Fleury expressing his desire to stay with the Vegas Golden Knights, even if the club re-signs Robin Lehner, those rumors have been squashed.
“I get along great with Robin, so I think it would be all right. I still love to play, I don’t think I just want to be a backup, but I’ll practice hard, try to play well, and hopefully get some games, but it always comes down to the coach’s decision. Whatever happens, happens. And that’s fine. I’ll just try my best to come to camp in good shape and do well from there.”Fleury said about staying in Vegas.
Tristan Jarry will be the Penguins’ starting goaltender moving forward, and Fleury does not want to be a backup goalie. Although Fleury may not join the Penguins next season, a reunion seems likely down the road. He has two years left on his contract and could retire with the club, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins will attempt to trade Matt Murray this offseason, and Jarry, a pending restricted free agent, is set to sign his next contract. According to Rossi and Yohe, Jarry’s next contract will not be similar to Murray’s contract extension from 2016, since he is a lot closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent. His next contract will either be a two-year bridge deal or at least four years. The four-year deal will come within a cap hit of $4 million.
Big Offseason Continues
Rutherford has already made three trades to start the offseason and has re-signed McCann to a two-year contract. It will be interesting how the Penguins deal with being in a cap crunch as they try to improve their roster. Nonetheless, this offseason will be eventful for the Penguins as Rutherford seems focused on getting the club back to Stanley Cup contender status.
Sartaaj has been watching hockey for over 15 years and covers the Vancouver Canucks for The Hockey Writers.