Pen­guins trade Hornqvist

The Times-Tribune - - SPORTS -

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 post­sea­son 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 rightwinge­r 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.”

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