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Penguins make Father Time biggest rival with Petry-Matheson trade

Penguins make Father Time biggest rival with Petry-Matheson trade

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman Mike Matheson (5) skates with the puck while Montreal Canadiens Defenseman Jeff Petry (26) defends during the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Montreal Canadiens on November 27, 2021, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An already-noteworthy Penguins defenseman trade involving John Marino and Ty Smith was apparently just part of the puzzle. Following a trade headlined by Michael Matheson going to the Canadiens and Jeff Petry heading to Pittsburgh, the Penguins larger defensive shuffling comes into focus.

It also only hammers home something that was already true. The Penguins and Father Time are primed for an epic battle over the next few (several?) years.

Penguins trade for: Jeff Petry (34, $6.25 million cap hit through 2024-25) and Ryan Poehling (25, $750K for one season)

Canadiens receive: Mike Matheson (28, $4.875M through 2025-26) and a 2023 fourth-round pick.

Petry trade continues theme: Penguins are going big, and going old

John Marino is a 25-year-old right-handed defenseman with strong defensive results and mixed offense that’s trended downward lately. He’s fairly cheap ($4.4M), which could be especially appealing if you agree, as his contract runs through 2026-27.

Matheson is quite a bit younger than Petry, too. In the end, the Penguins swapped out Matheson (left-handed) and Marino (right-handed) for Ty Smith (left-handed reclamation project) and Petry (right-handed).

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

But age is the more interesting factor than handedness (which, it must be said, teams sometimes obsess about with defensemen).

Both Petry and Sidney Crosby are 34, while Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang are 35. For every 27-year-old Jake Guentzel, there’s another 30-year-old in a prominent spot, like Bryan Rust or Brian Dumoulin.

By name recognition alone, Jeff Petry is the biggest piece in these interconnected trades. The Penguins are banking on him maintaining a high level play, even as he’s slipped from borderline-Norris-material to “just” very, very good.

If things trend the wrong way, the Penguins could look devastatingly old in rapid fashion. If Petry gives the Penguins a bigger push in the short-term, they’re probably OK with long-term pain.

Via Cap Friendly, the Matheson - Petry - Smith - Marino swaps leave the Penguins with about $2M in salary cap space.

They also may still have a glut of defensemen:

Canadiens extract Matheson out of Petry trade rather than futures

Let’s be honest: sometimes you find a gem in the fourth round. It’s just not very likely.

(Three of the four defensemen in these trades were drafted in either the first or second round, while John Marino was selected 154th overall in 2015.)

Honestly, in picturing most Jeff Petry trade scenarios, I pictured the Canadiens snagging something like a first-rounder or a quality prospect off of a fairly big-name, right-handed defenseman. Instead, the focus was on a younger defenseman.

Matheson, 28, is younger and cheaper, although his contract lasts for an additional season. At first, I assumed the Canadiens got lured in by an unusually good season from Matheson.

Upon further research, the two compare closely over a three-year sample, actually. Consider this three-year RAPM chart comparison of Petry and Matheson from Evolving Hockey:



Big-picture wise, I believe the Canadiens should be skewing even younger. In fact, I’ve been taken aback by the Canadiens balking at offers to trade away a problem contract like that of Josh Anderson.

However, if Matheson is close to the player Petry is now -- and different measures, including “the eye test” may inspire differing opinions -- then this can still be a sensible trade for the Canadiens. Again, he’s considerably younger, and if you like the contract, then you’re covered for four seasons.

It’s also possible that the Habs aren’t done yet. The Canadiens are tight to the salary cap, and that’s with Kirby Dach as an RFA.