PITTSBURGH — Patric Hornqvist's grit helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win a pair of Stanley Cups. To keep their championship window opened, they decided it was time to move on without him.
The Penguins traded the 33-year-old forward to Florida on Thursday in exchange for Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour.
Hornqvist spent six seasons in Pittsburgh after being acquired in a 2014 trade that sent James Neal to Nashville. Known for his hard-nosed play around the net, Hornqvist scored 132 goals in 407 games for the Penguins and added 22 more in the playoffs, including 14 during Pittsburgh's run to consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Hornqvist dealt with health issues — including concussions — near the end of his run in Pittsburgh. He was limited to 52 games during the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season and his 17 goals marked his fewest since 2012-13. He has three years left on a five-year, $26.5-million contract extension he signed in February 2018.
“This is a hard one," Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said. “He was the first guy I acquired when I came to Pittsburgh and he’s played a big role in the success of the team over the years he was here, especially the two Stanley Cup years. He changed the culture.”
The 26-year-old Matheson and the 31-year-old Sceviour join a club smarting after a second straight abrupt post-season exit. The Penguins were stunned in four games by Montreal in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup tournament and are 1-9 in their last 10 playoff games. While Rutherford insists the championship window remains open around the core of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the team needed to get younger and faster. Matheson satisfies both requirements.
“We talked about getting younger, making some changes, trying to transition on the fly if that’s possible in this league,” Rutherford said. “We had the chance to get a good young D-man that has a high skill level and a right-winger that’s a good player and plays his role very well.”
Matheson had eight goals and 12 assists in 59 games for the Panthers this season while Sceviour finished with six goals and 10 assists as a bottom-six forward. While Rutherford expects both to make an impact on the ice, he doesn't expect them to fill the role in the dressing room that the popular Hornqvist filled for so long.
“There’s no question we will miss his leadership, and we will miss him,” Rutherford said. "He is one of the very top character players in our league. When you miss a player like that, other players have to fill in the gap.”