The Plan For Shawn Matthias

Matthias will most likely find himself fighting for ice time this year. Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

As the Panthers’ roster starts to take shape, there are a few openings still left to be filled.  One of those few is the fourth-line center spot.  The Panthers have a bevy of players qualified to take that spot, including Tim Kennedy, Ryan Carter, Steve Reinprecht, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Quinton Howden.

The person who held that spot last year, Shawn Matthias, is in serious jeopardy of surrendering that spot to one of those other skaters.  His chances of cracking the NHL roster weren’t helped by Matthias signing a 2-way contract with the Panthers on Friday, and Howden and Huberdeau are progressing rapidly.  Although Matthias is only 23 years old, the door might be closing on his chance to make a big difference on the Florida roster.

When Matthias’ two-year, $1.6 million deal was in the works, the biggest argument between Matthias’ camp and the Panthers’ brass was whether or not his contract would be two-way.  With the old regime in Florida, and with a weaker farm system, he would’ve been able to negotiate a one-way deal easily.  However, the depth behind Matthias serious depleted his leverage in the conversations, and he was forced to settle for securing his NHL spot in camp.

The only problem is that the competition is making it extremely tough on him.  Fans are more excited about the prospects of having one of their killer prospects in the NHL level; the organization might like to see another player steal a spot from Matthias so that player could have an oppurtunity to break out, a la Mike Santorelli.  This certainly binds Matthias.  He has played 126 games with the Panthers and has scored 36 points with a plus-minus of -8.  He has had plenty of time to turn into a big-time player, but he hasn’t quite done it yet.  It’s fair to say that he has been a solid skater, but not electric.  He might lose a battle in camp to somebody who can add another dimension to the Panthers’ offense.

If it was up to me, I’d keep Matthias on the NHL roster for the first month or so and see if he puts all the pieces together and breaks out.  If he doesn’t, Dale Tallon has a nice two-way contract to work with to send him down.

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