The Winnipeg Jets have dipped into the free agent pool, signing versatile forward Shawn Matthias to a two-year deal worth $2.125 million per.
On a day when the Minnesota Wild added Chris Stewart and Eric Staal, Matthias brings 6'4" and 231 lbs of size to the table. With that said, the 28-year-old does possess some goal scoring acumen, though one shouldn't bank on Matthias equalling or surpassing his high of 18 tallies from 2014-15.
After playing parts of seven seasons with the Florida Panthers, Matthias has been a journeyman of late. Winnipeg will be his fifth team in four seasons, having skated with the Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and aforementioned Panthers. Points-wise, Matthias is coming off his best NHL season, with 28 points in 71 games. This total features the 11 points in 20 games he had after Colorado acquired him from Toronto, in exchange for prospect Colin Smith and a 2016 4th round pick. His previous high came with Vancouver in 2014-15, when he posted 27 points in 78 games.
Matthias provides competent veteran depth, and his presence next season will likely push a kid out of the bottom-six and onto the Manitoba Moose. In terms of specific lineup projections, speculation has already begun that his addition may keep Mathieu Perreault on the wing. However, there are a couple reasons why Winnipeg's new addition may be better suited to this himself, rather than down the middle. Matthias' playmaking ability is lackluster at best, and his reputation as a solid faceoff guy is horribly outdated. As per NHL.com:
Between the juggernaut Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche, Matthias was trusted to take all of 24 faceoffs last season. Furthermore, the last time his faceoff win percentage cracked 50.0% was in 2010-11. At 46.7%, the Winnipeg Jets had the 28th ranked FOW%, and Shawn Matthias is unlikely to help matters much.
"I like (centre and wing) I played most of my career at centre, last couple of years at wing. Wherever I'm told, I'll play." -@ShawnMatthias— M Remis (@mremis) July 1, 2016
When adjusted to per 60 rates, Shawn Matthias' goal scoring is actually quite good, though as was previously alluded to, his assist rate is not. One thing is for certain: the Winnipeg Jets aren't bringing Matthias aboard for his stellar possession numbers. Courtesy of Own The Puck:
(A reminder of how Corsi is an expanded shot metric which measures all attempts, including missed and blocked opportunities.)
Attempting to parse Matthias' fancy stats last season is an interesting exercise. On the one hand, he was part of two 5v5 possession positive lines while with the Toronto Maple Leafs, those being Matthias-Bozak-Parenteau and Matthias-Froese-Boyes. On the other, all of those players sans Froese were dramatically better without Matthias than with.
Matthias' most common lines while with Colorado, Matthias-Soderberg-Comeau and Matthias-Soderberg-Landeskog, were 5v5 possession negative from both a raw Corsi For% and Corsi For% relative to teammates standpoint. But the Avs were a fancy stat disaster team-wide, and Matthias' Colorado WOWYs provide a mixed bag. Jets fans can hope Matthias will benefit from playing within Winnipeg's relatively strong 5v5 system.
One area where Matthias does excel is on the penalty kill, leading all NHL forwards last season in shorthanded Shots For%, while coming 4th in Corsi For%. While he's good but not great in limiting both Shots Against and Corsi Against, Matthias' specialty is in creating shorthanded chances the other way. Simply put, the big forward adds a dangerous element to last year's 25th place penalty kill.
Love it, hate it or somewhere in-between, Matthias' contract is in line with the July 1st prices this year's market paid to bottom-six veterans possessing name recognition. A quick list of today's comparables:
- Matt Martin, age 27, four years, $2.5 mil AAV
- Dale Weise, age 27, four years, $2.35 mil AAV
- Jason Chimera, age 37, two years, $2.25 mil AAV
- Shawn Matthias, age 28, two years, $2.125 mil AAV
While one could make a case for Eric Staal at $3.5 mil, Chris Stewart at $1.15 mil, or perhaps even Manitoba Moose legend Michael Grabner's two-year, $1.6 mil AAV contract, the fact remains that Matthias' deal is neither outlier nor outrageous. At the very least, his comments make for a good foil to those of a certain ex-captain:
"I think we're going to win. I'm expecting to win." - Shawn Matthias— Sean C. Reynolds (@snseanreynolds) July 1, 2016
What is your reaction to the Shawn Matthias signing? How much of a "Winnipeg tax" do you feel factored into his $2.125 mil AAV? Are Matthias' potential contributions as a depth goal scorer and penalty killing staple enough to justify his contract? And at 5v5, is his place on the 3rd or 4th line? Share your thoughts, questions and concerns in the Comments section below, and as always, thanks for reading!