NHL trade grades: Penguins pick up Petry and Poehling in deal with Canadiens

NHL trade grades: Penguins pick up Petry and Poehling in deal with Canadiens

The trade

Penguins get: Defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Ryan Poehling

Canadiens get: Defenseman Michael Matheson and a 2023 fourth-round pick

Shayna Goldman: So, the Penguins weren’t done. We can see why they were clearing some cap space with the John Marino deal, since Jeff Petry comes in a bit higher (though with one year less) than Mike Matheson. It’s interesting that Pittsburgh moved Emily Matheson’s husband after having such a great year. Pittsburgh got to sell high, and if there’s any concern that he wouldn’t repeat his 2021-22 season, they no longer have to worry about it.

Matheson brings value as a second-pair defender who can help transition the puck up ice. But he’s going to be a lot more exposed in Montreal, so the coaches will have to manage his usage to keep him at his best. Overall, the Canadiens get a defender who is younger and costs less, which should be helpful in a few years as they retool to become more competitive.

Petry is very good still and, even though 2021-22 wasn’t his best, he managed to make a positive impact at both ends of the ice at five-on-five, despite the team falling apart around him. Now, he should have a lot more support in Pittsburgh. The 34 year old has three years left on his contract (and the Penguins did not get any salary retained), so if things go south — and they tend to for defenders in their mid-to-late 30s — it may hamstring his new club. It’s just super clear that Pittsburgh is focused on the right now, as they should be with their core group staying put. They can figure out the future later on.

Some cheap forward depth in Ryan Poehling isn’t a bad add for Pittsburgh either. Who knows? Maybe he’ll become the next Evan Rodrigues since the Sidney Crosby Effect is real.

The trade was a bit surprising, but it seems fine enough on each side.

Pittsburgh Penguins: B
Montreal Canadiens: B+

Sean Gentille: When Ron Hextall made his last trade — John Marino for Ty Smith — I thought I knew what the next one would look like. I thought wrong.

Hextall didn’t do anything to address his surplus of NHL defensemen, but he did change personnel. Out goes Mike Matheson (left side, top-four, offensively gifted, coming off the most well-rounded season of his uneven NHL career), in comes Petry (right side, top pair, coming off a brutal season after several years of excellence), along with forward Ryan Poehling (a 2017 first-round pick who could wind up as a bottom-six contributor for Pittsburgh this season).

From a cap standpoint, Hextall added $2.125 million to Pittsburgh’s number, with Montreal ditching just as much. Petry carries a $6.25 AAV for three more seasons and Poehling is at $750,000; Matheson is at $4.875 million for four.

In Petry, if last season was an aberration, the Penguins are getting an aging, offensively productive, well-rounded presence on the right side who can spell Kris Letang more effectively than, say, Marino if need be. The issue? Petry is 34, which makes it unwise to assume last year’s dip was due solely to Montreal’s disaster of a season. Pittsburgh seems to be betting otherwise.

In Matheson, if last season was an aberration, the Canadiens are getting an often-electric, often-maddening player whose mistakes don’t adequately counterbalance his gifts. The plus side? Matheson made major strides last season; the mistakes are still there, but he made fewer of them.

Poehling is something of a necessary add for Pittsburgh, even if he doesn’t get any closer to tapping his potential. After years of neglect, the Penguins’ prospect system is short on cheap, quality depth forwards.

The salary stuff is largely a wash. Pittsburgh’s short-term outlook should matter less than adding players better equipped for one last run with the Crosby/Malkin/Letang core. Montreal gets some extra space for the next few seasons and an extra year of control over Matheson, who could well be underpaid by the time he hits free agency as a 32-year-old.

This might be a cop out, but this feels like yet another “good for both teams” deal. Neither defenseman is perfect, and both feel like better fits in their new spots. Montreal did well to add a legitimate second-pair guy, given Petry’s trade request. If Kent Hughes wants to flip Matheson elsewhere over the next couple years, he’ll likely be able to do so. Pittsburgh is gambling on a bounce-back season from Petry. If it comes, they’ll be a bit better off this season with him (and Poehling) on the roster than Matheson. And at this point, not much else should matter to Hextall. Time to see what he does next.

Pittsburgh Penguins: B+
Montreal Canadiens: B

Dom Luszczyszyn: By name-brand value, this looks like a big win for the Penguins. Jeff Petry has long been a legitimate top-pairing defender while Mike Matheson has long been viewed as an overpaid borderline top-four defender. Considering the modest cap hit increase (especially after shipping out John Marino), the Penguins look like they did very well here on the surface.

But something interesting happened over the last year — Petry’s stock fell, while Matheson’s stock grew. Prior to last season, Petry was projected to be valued at 1.8 wins which is low-end No. 1 defenseman territory. Meanwhile, Matheson was around 0.3 wins, which is bottom pairing fodder. But after a trying year for Petry and a breakout campaign for Matheson, the duo are valued almost equally. That explains why they were essentially traded for each other, with Petry fitting Pittsburgh’s current timeline and Matheson having some upside while giving Montreal extra cap space. Win-win.

The model currently sides with Matheson, ever so slightly, and there are two ways to look at it: age and priors. On the age side, maybe Matheson looks more appealing given he’s six years younger than Petry — last year may have been a sign of decline. On the priors side, 2021-22 was an irregularity for both defenders and a return to normalcy favours Petry. I lean toward the latter and like this bet for the Penguins for that reason. In Pittsburgh’s system, with the team’s depth up front, Petry should thrive and get back to his old ways.

Pittsburgh Penguins: A-
Montreal Canadiens: B+

Corey Pronman: Ryan Poehling is a former top prospect whose transition to pro hockey didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. He’s a very smart center, with good enough skill and compete levels. He’s not a great skater, though, and the offense in his game doesn’t get you overly excited. There’s enough to his game to make you think he can be a long-time bottom-six center with a (dwindling) chance at more.

Jeff Petry is getting up there in age, and he’s not the player he once was, while being paid a lot of money for three more seasons. He’s still a strong-skating right-shot defenseman with size who is a highly intelligent puck-mover and can contribute offense in the NHL while holding his own defensively.

Michael Matheson’s skating ability has always stood out. He can transition pucks at a clear NHL level due to his feet. His hockey sense is average, so he is not a standout at either end of the rink. He’s a solid third-pair defenseman, who can play a bigger role in Montreal.

For my money, I would take Petry over Matheson in a game tomorrow, although I don’t know if that will be the case in a year or two. The Penguins get the best player in the deal and a decent young player — even if Petry is overpaid at this stage of his career. Montreal moves on from Poehling who didn’t live up to expectations, and in Matheson they now have a younger defenseman than Petry they can use to fill minutes in some tough years ahead, and likely turn around in the future for more young talent.

Pittsburgh Penguins: B+
Montreal Canadiens: B


(Photo of Jeff Petry: John Cordes / NHLI via Getty Images)

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