The Montreal Canadiens traded veteran defenseman Jeff Petry and forward Ryan Poehling to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday in exchange for defenseman Mike Matheson and a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.
Petry is signed for the next three seasons with a salary cap of $6.25 million. Montreal withheld nothing from his salary in the transaction.
The 12-year veteran played 803 NHL games between the Canadiens and the Edmonton Oilers. Petry was traded to Montreal in 2015 and has enjoyed a rather successful tenure with the club. The 34-year-old struggled more recently under former coach Dominique Ducharme, and Petry requested a trade to Montreal last November.
Ducharme was fired midway through the season, and while Petry’s game has improved under new coach Martin St. Louis, the veteran still hopes to be moved on for family reasons.
The Canadian was also clearly entering a reconstruction phase that would focus on its young core. Petry’s contract made it difficult for general manager Kent Hughes to find a willing business partner, especially since Hughes was not interested in just dumping Petry anywhere or keeping part of his cap on the books.
No deal was reached by the March deadline, and Petry finished a poor season in Montreal with six goals and 27 points in 68 games.
Hughes said last week Petry’s move was “a priority,” but reiterated that it had to be the right deal for Montreal. Completing the trade now gives the Canadiens some much-needed cap flexibility with approximately $2.4 million of room for next season.
Poehling is a former first-round pick (25th overall) from Montreal in 2017. The 23-year-old has been a solid forward from depth in 85 NHL games with 13 goals and 22 points. He is signed until the end of next season.
The Penguins were looking for a right-handed defenseman, and trading Petry for left-handed Matheson helps them do just that. Still, Pittsburgh has a glut of NHL defensemen and will now pay Petry nearly $2 million more per season than Matheson. This could be one of several moves for the Penguins to settle their impasse. Earlier Saturday, Pittsburgh traded defenseman John Marino, 25, to the New Jersey Devils in return for defenseman Ty Smith, 22, and a third-round pick in next year’s draft.
Matheson should be a major asset for Montreal. He just finished a career season on the second pair of Pittsburgh (11 goals and 31 points in 74 games), likes to play in transition but does not sacrifice in his own zone. The 28-year-old doesn’t plan to be a top player but is expected to make consistent contributions.