It was all about the money – how Sheffield Steelers couldn’t meet the expectations of Nottingham Panthers-bound Mark Matheson
Mark Matheson opted to sign for Nottingham Panthers after learning he might have to take a salary-drop if he was to return to Sheffield Steelers.
The swish defenceman had effectively been held in a Steelers' holding pattern as new coach Aaron Fox juggled finances and the need for priority forward signings.
Fox was honest with Matheson - he told him that he may have to take a salary cut if he was to come back for a third term.
That presumably did not appeal and Matheson became one of a decorated list of players on the books of both Sheffield and Nottingham, the two greatest rivals in UK ice hockey.
"From my end, I felt I needed to some high end forwards done (signed) and there will be news on that soon," said the Sheffield coach.
"Also we have Aaron (Johnson) and Benny (O'Connor) coming back, both left-handers, and with the money they are on unless Mark was willing to come in on a way different number he was going to be hard to keep."
Fox had been unaware of Nottingham's planned swoop but said: "They have a young coach there (Tim Wallace) and (as a former Steeler team mate) Mark should be a good fit.
"I am not surprised there was interest in Mark across the League but as far as we were concerned I had to look at the salaries.
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"I spoke to him a few times to keep him in the loop on prices and what my thoughts were and how there were a couple of high-end forwards on my list and how I'd have to see home much money was left."
Fox said he was not disappointed to see Matheson signing for the club's biggest competitors.
"I like the guys we have got coming back, the ones we have signed and others that are not yet done. We are making decisions based on our priorities across the Summer."
Matheson is a key addition to the Panthers' line-up says their director of hockey Gui Doucet.
“I think he will be an asset to the club, he has a fair bit of coaching experience already, he knows Tim Wallace well, he knows our league and he knows what we are aiming to achieve next season.
“He’s excited to be joining us and of course he knows all about our rivalries with other teams.”
Panthers' website describe him as having: "proven track record as both a player and as an assistant coach with some 400 games in the AHL in North America on his resume plus more than a hundred Elite League games as well as time in Norway, Sweden, Austria and France."
Matheson scored three goals and two assists against Panthers last season before injuring his foot in a match against them - ending his season.