Shawn Matthias has finally had a breakout NHL season, scoring a career-high 14 goals for the Florida Panthers in a shortened season. Unfortunately, he has done so in what has turned into an incredibly disappointing season for the Panthers, and as the team looks to rebuild for the future there may not be a spot left for him next season. The Panthers have no shortage of centers on their roster, as Peter Mueller, Marcel Goc and Nick Bjugstad are all currently seeing time in the middle on the team’s top three lines. Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky have also slotted in at center on the top lines as the lineup has constantly shuffled this season. Rookie Drew Shore has also seen a lot playing time this season, and with the Panthers expected to try and re-sign currently injured center Stephen Weiss, there just doesn’t seem to be a spot left for Matthias.
Matthias is a former second-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings who came to the Panthers in a trade for Todd Bertuzzi. His previous season-high in goals was 10 (2011-12) and there should be no shortage of teams interested in his services at the end of the season. He is in line for a significant raise from his current salary, and will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. While a lengthy argument could be made that keeping Matthias instead of Weiss is the smarter move with more upside, the Panthers at this point seem to be set on keeping the veteran rather than the youngster with one good (half) season under his belt.
It has been great to see Matthias reach his potential this season, and he has a bright NHL future ahead of him whether he sticks with the Panthers or not.