The Penguins moved out a right-shot defender earlier today when they sent John Marino to New Jersey. It appears he’ll be replaced by Jeff Petry as Pittsburgh has acquired the veteran along with center Ryan Poehling from Montreal in exchange for blueliner Mike Matheson and a 2023 fourth-round pick. Both teams have confirmed the swap.
The 34-year-old is coming off a tough season with Montreal that saw him struggle as their top defender in the absence of Shea Weber. He struggled mightily offensively to start the year as over the first three months of the year, he had just two assists in 27 games. However, Petry’s performance improved following the coaching change that saw Martin St. Louis take over behind the bench and he was much better down the stretch, picking up 21 points in the final three months of the season. Overall, Petry finished up the year with six goals and 21 assists in 68 games, his lowest point total since the 2015-16 campaign, his first full season with the Canadiens.
Around the midway point of the year, he also requested a trade for family reasons. While he was widely expected to move at the trade deadline and again at the draft, it has taken a while for a move to materialize.
Petry has three years left on his contract with a $6.25MM AAV and Montreal GM Kent Hughes stated earlier this week that he wasn’t interested in retaining any salary to facilitate a trade. While the Marino move freed up roughly $3.5MM in cap flexibility, that wasn’t enough to absorb Petry’s full deal which is what prompted Matheson’s inclusion in the swap. Petry had been speculated as a possible replacement for Kris Letang if the veteran was to leave in free agency. Instead, Letang signed a six-year deal and Petry will now help form a quality one-two punch on the right side of their back end with Petry’s AAV checking in just above Letang’s to make him the highest-paid blueliner on the team.
Matheson was a top-four defender early in his career with Florida but his stock started to dip a few years ago, resulting in him being flipped for Patric Hornqvist. The move worked out well for the 28-year-old as he had a career year offensively in 2021-22, picking up 11 goals and 20 assists in 74 games while logging just under 19 minutes a night. He was also quite productive for the Penguins in the playoffs, notching a goal and five helpers in seven games to lead all Pittsburgh blueliners in scoring while averaging over 25 minutes per contest.
Matheson has four years remaining on his contract with a $4.875MM AAV on a deal that is somewhat heavily backloaded with his payout set to jump to $6.5MM per season in each of the final three seasons. He immediately becomes the blueliner with the longest contract on the Canadiens while also being their highest-paid. He’ll likely take the place of Alexander Romanov on Montreal’s depth chart as the youngster was traded back at the draft to the Islanders for the 13th-overall pick which was then flipped to Chicago to pick up center Kirby Dach.
As for Poehling, the 23-year-old was a first-round pick of Montreal back in 2017 (25th overall) and spent most of last season with the Canadiens, notching nine goals and eight assists in 57 games while averaging just over 12 minutes per game. He’s likely to have a similar role in Pittsburgh’s bottom six in 2022-23. Poehling is signed for the league minimum for next season and will be a restricted free agent next summer.
With the move, Pittsburgh now has just under $2MM in cap space with RFA winger Kasperi Kapanen still to sign. That’s not enough for the 25-year-old so it would appear that GM Ron Hextall has another move to try to make. Meanwhile, Montreal frees up a little over $2MM with this swap, giving them a little over $2.3MM in cap room with Dach as their most notable RFA in need of a new deal.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images. Contract and cap info courtesy of CapFriendly.