SUNRISE, Fla. – Florida Panthers General Manager Bill Zito didn’t take much time in his new role before diving headfirst into the deep end and making his first big splash.
According to NHL Network’s Kevin Weekes, the Panthers are trading defenseman Mike Matheson to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Patric Hornqvist.
The deal could certainly have more nuance, such as draft picks or retained salary, and has yet to be officially announced, as Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the trade hit a “glitch” that was holding things up.
That glitch may or may not have to do with Hornqvist’s no-trade clause. Time will tell.
The deal, if confirmed, comes as a bit of a surprise considering Matheson has what many considered to be a contract that is difficult to move; he’s locked in for another six years with an AAV (average annual value) of $4.87 million.
It’s a big commitment to take on for a player who has struggled mightily to find consistently in his game in recent years.
The former first round pick has shown flashes of greatness, and there is no arguing that Matheson possesses an elite skating ability, but mental mistakes continued to pile up to the point where the 26-year-old was benched during Florida’s final two games of their Qualifying Round series against the New York Islanders.
Hopefully a change of scenery, and perhaps different messages from a new coaching staff, will help turn things around for Matheson, who now heads to a Pittsburgh team that has made contending for the Stanley Cup an annual occurrence.
In return for the 26-year-old defenseman, Florida is receiving a tough, crafty, goal scoring winger known for his prowess in front of the net.
Hornqvist has split his career evenly between Nashville, which drafted him, and Pittsburgh, where he’s excelled during the past six seasons. His contract has three years remaining with an AAV of $5.3 million.
While his point totals have gradually gone down in recent years, Hornqvist is still capable of providing the kind of secondary scoring a team like the Panthers will need, and his experience in the league, and its postseason, will come in handy with the expected influx of younger players in the not-too-distant future.
Over the past seven seasons, Hornqvist has scored 22, 25, 22, 21, 29, 18 and 17 goals, respectively.
His addition could very well be to replace one or both of Florida’s top scoring unrestricted free agents, Mike Hoffman and Egvenii Dadonov.
While Hornqvist isn’t the sniper that Hoffman can be, the hard-nosed veteran has proven to be a solid contributor on the power play and should provide some help in that department whether or not the Panthers lose their two point-producing wingers.
Hornqvist has played in 770 NHL games with Nashville and Pittsburgh, accumulating 480 points (238-242-480), 149 of which have come on the power play.
He’s also competed in 90 playoff games and won the Stanley Cup twice.