Hughes Flinched – Who is Matheson?

By JD Lagrange – Well there you have it. The GM who said he would not give assets or accept less than fair value for Jeff Petry just a few days ago has changed his mind. Or perhaps he feels like Mike Matheson is better than Jeff Petry to the point of adding a former first round pick in Ryan Poehling? Allow me to doubt that.

The trade

Oh I’m not saying that it’s a bad trade, don’t get me wrong. In fact, if you compare to the following four trades, Hughes did very well. But to say that he didn’t flinch by giving up assets to compensate for not taking salary back would be putting our head in the sand.

To CarolinaTo Vegas
Max Pacioretty
Dylan Coghlan
“Future considerations”
To NashvilleTo Tampa Bay
Ryan McDonaghGrant Mismash
Philippe Myers
To CarolinaTo San Jose
Brent Burns
Lane Pederson
Steven Lorentz
Eetu Makiniemi
2023 conditional 3rd round pick
To ChicagoTo Toronto
Petr Mrazek
2022 1st round pick
2022 2nd round pick

So by measure of comparison, the Canadiens are at least getting a good hockey player (and a fourth round pick) for Petry, even if they had to give Ryan Poehling to make it happen. All of that to save $1.375 million and no, I’m not counting Poehling as his spot must be replaced in the line-up, assuming he would make the team.

Who’s Matheson?

Mike Matheson is a 28 year-old, left-handed defenseman. The 6-foot 2-inches, 188 lbs left-handed defenseman has all the skills needed to be a solid two-way defenseman but has yet to develop the consistency needed to thrive at the NHL level. He is very mobile with good offensive potential. However, he drives coaches crazy at times by getting caught out of position.

Matheson carries a cap hit of $4.875 million until 2025-26. This means that the Canadiens are saving $1.375 million, but he has one more year to his contract than Petry.

As one of Kent Hughes’ former clients, he knows him well and he describes him as a five-star person, the type of man a father would want their daughter to marry! In his post-trade meeting with the press, Hughes said that he talked in length to Matheson’s teammate (and also former client) Kris Letang before pulling the trigger on the trade.

Who’s better?

A few of us had an interesting discussion about the value of Matheson as a player compared to Petry. In my mind, there is no doubt that Petry is far ahead of Matheson as an overall defenseman but why just take my word for it? I have been wrong before, ask my ex-wife.

We all agree that last season was one to forget for Petry, right? I mean up until Dominique Ducharme was fired in February, the usually savvy veteran only had one single goal and a pathetic six points total in 38 games! COVID, family in the US, disagreement with the coach, perhaps even pouting… nothing was working. Still, after Martin St-Louis took over, the American defenseman returned to form, averaging 0.70 points per game! The old Petry was back! Anyway, here are last year’s comparisons between the two players, even with Petry’s poor season…

Mike MathesonJeff Petry
0:43PP TOI/GP1:43
0:16PK TOI/GP2:19

Now let’s look at the past three seasons combined, to give a bigger picture…

Mike MathesonJeff Petry
0:36PP TOI/GP2:09
0:32PK TOI/GP2:07

It’s nowhere close. So those who think that the Habs had to give up Ryan Poehling in order to compensate for Matheson being better (yes, some think that) will have to think again. Then add the value of a rare top-4 right-handed defenseman and you’ll realize that Hughes flinched and made it happen. I don’t blame him, he had to.

Rem Pitlick

Immediately after the trade, the Canadiens announced having reached an agreement with UFA Rem Pitlick, who they had not qualified, on a new 2 years, $2.2 million contract ($1.1M cap hit).

More reading…

6 thoughts on “Hughes Flinched – Who is Matheson?

  1. You might be forgetting that West Island MM is 6 years younger than Petry and he is just beginning to put it all together with the potential to be even better than Petry in a few years time. Add to that Petry did not want to be in Montreal away from his family (did we want him sulking again this year?). By accommodating JP’s request Kent Hughes and the Habs built some good will with some folks and perhaps that will be a factor in future negotiations with an valuable FA or two..Also as much as it pains me to say it RP had little to no value in today’s trade market…

    1. No, I fully understand and acknowledge the facts you’re bringing up and they are very fair points. The comparison derives mostly from discussions on social media as to whom is the better player now, and the value in trades in a very difficult market and unusual circumstances. What you are saying is totally true and that’s why I’ve stated that Hughes did better than his couterparts. Bob (Trask) is writing a piece taking the difference in ages into consideration. I think you’ll like it. Likely publishing it later this evening. Thanks for the comment.

  2. That’s not a flinch, but skilled well thought out trade, that the Habs will win in the end.

    Matheson, less money, 6yrs younger than Petry. Similar numbers? If we look at Petry 6 years ago when he was 28, 80gp 8g, 20a – 28pts, at that time his best year, and only got better from there.

    Matheson, this past year(at 28), 74gp, 11G, 20A – 31pts, (most of that 5v5) also his best year thus far, and will only get better. Give him some powerplay time and those numbers are going to come up.

    The upside to Matheson is is better than Petry. And signed for the next 4 for $4.875? That’s a steal in my book.

    Throwing Poehling in, while I hate to see him go, bringing in Dach made him expendable. And if it comes down to a choice of Poehling or Evans for the 4C spot, I am going to go with Evans everytime.

    1. I understand what you’re saying and I’m not downplaying it. But it’s a flinch in the sense that Petry is better than Matheson (by how much is debatable) and has more value due to the fact that he’s a top-4 right-handed defenseman, and Hughes had to add a former 1st round pick, a NHL caliber player who keeps on improving in Poehling. When you give the best player with the higher value and add, it’s overpaying. He had to do it due to the market and based on what some of his peers had to give, he did well. My opinion anyway.

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