5:25pm: The Penguins have recalled Pierre-Olivier Joseph from the minor leagues, likely due to Matheson’s absence. After impressing as a rookie in 2020-21, Joseph has played in just four games at the NHL level this season, spending nearly the entire year in the minor leagues. He’s been outstanding there, racking up 28 points in 40 games, and could now get an extended look in Matheson’s place.
Matheson, 27, has had a bit of a career revival since arriving in Pittsburgh in a trade for Patric Hornqvist. In his 94 games with the Penguins Matheson has provided decent offense, with 12 goals and 37 points, and has also given the club’s defense some size and physicality. Matheson is on a significant contract, $4.875MM through 2025-2026, so while his cap hit may bring him some added attention he has settled into a nice role anchoring the Penguins’ third pairing.
With Matheson’s injury, the Penguins may choose to rely on Mark Friedman to take Matheson’s place on the team’s third pairing. Friedman is now an option due to him being recently called up from an AHL conditioning stint. Since being claimed off waivers from Philadelphia last season Friedman has seven points in 17 games for the Penguins. Other than Matheson, the Penguins could seek to call up another defenseman from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins or look for added external help on the trade market.
Before this injury, the Penguins’ defense corps had been largely healthy this season. Ruhwedel, Marcus Pettersson, Brian Dumoulin, John Marino, Matheson, and Kris Letang have all played in at least 48 games, and that degree of health up and down their defensive roster is something few other teams can boast of having. That being said, the Penguins have had a tough recent stretch of games, where they have lost three straight games and given up 14 goals in the process. Those results mean Matheson’s injury is particularly bad timing, and it will be interesting to see what GM Ron Hextall and the Penguins’ front office does to respond to Matheson’s extended absence.