Following his career year, Shawn Matthias didn’t cash in quite as big as Matt Beleskey, but the 27-year-old winger did earn a healthy raise Monday, signing a one-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, worth a reported $2.3 million.
Matthias earned $1.85 million in 2014-15 as a member of the Vancouver Canucks and took his chance on the free agent market this off-season. It paid off, as less than a week after his nearest comparison, the aforementioned Beleseky, signed a five-year deal with the Boston Bruins worth $3.8 million per season, Matthias has himself a considerable raise. Over his career, Matthias has notched 69 goals and 131 points in 408 games.
With the Canucks this past season, Matthias scored 18 goals and 27 points, the best single season totals of his career, which is impressive considering 17 of his tallies came at even strength, second on Vancouver behind only Radim Vrabta’s 19. Even though Matthias spent a mere 7:15 total on the power play over the course of his 78 games this past season, his only non-even strength goal came with the extra man. With numbers like that, if he can find chemistry with the right linemates, this could be a tremendous signing for Toronto.
Considering the Maple Leafs could easily have overpaid for the similarly skilled Beleskey, bringing in Matthias is a clever move. At 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, Matthias is every bit the power forward Beleskey can be and at a savings of $1.5 million. That should allow the Maple Leafs some salary flexibility – or simply cover the salary retention costs in the trade of Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. On top of the savings, Matthias also brings some penalty killing acumen to the mix, something Beleskey wouldn’t have offered the club. That said, as noted, Matthias hasn’t played nearly the minutes of Beleskey on the power play. There’s a give and take there.
Next season will be somewhat of a homecoming for Matthias, too. A Mississauga, Ont., native, Matthias signing with a Maple Leafs team that is in the midst of a rebuild means he’ll have lowered expectations for a hometown hero. That’s a good thing considering the last big-bodied local boy to sign a free agent deal, David Clarkson, didn’t pan out the way either player or team had hoped.
Since being drafted by the Detroit Red Wings 47th overall at the 2006 draft, Matthias has spent six full seasons in the NHL while splitting his first two campaigns between the NHL, AHL and OHL. Before he had suited up for a single NHL game, the Red Wings dealt Matthias and draft picks to the Florida Panthers for Todd Bertuzzi. Matthias was again dealt, this time to the Vancouver Canucks in the Roberto Luongo trade, after seven seasons in the Panthers organization.
Matthias has, for the most part, been limited to third- and fourth-line duty for the duration of his pro career, never taking on more than an average of 15:35 in ice time. This upcoming season in Toronto, however, could offer Matthias the chance to take some top-six minutes should he find a fit alongside Tyler Bozak or Nazem Kadri.
At present, the Maple Leafs’ roster is in somewhat of a state of flux – no decisions have been made yet on what the roster will look like and new coach Mike Babcock will certainly play with his lineup to find combinations that are to his liking. Young wingers like Mitch Marner and William Nylander will get the opportunity to compete for roster spots out of training camp, but if the Red Wings' mentality of letting young players grow in the minors comes to the Maple Leafs alongside former Detroit bench boss Babcock, it’s not very likely either young gun will bump Matthias down the lineup.