Devante Smith-Pelly was a maligned forward over his tenure with the Montreal Canadiens, acquired for speedy European free-agent darling Jiri Sekac, who many thought never got a fair chance to prove what he could do at the NHL level.
Smith-Pelly didn't do himself any favours to turn the fans to his side, often appearing uninterested in playing the hard-nosed, forechecking style he was expected to display. His spot in the lineup was a source of frustration for those who wanted to see one of the prospects on the verge of their NHL career get their chance to shine.
In 66 games with the Canadiens, Smith-Pelly contributed 15 points, accruing 34 penalty minutes.
Matteau himself has failed to meet the lofty expectations the Devils had in mind when selecting him 29th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Scouted to be large-bodied, physical forward who could contribute the odd point now and again (very much like how Smith-Pelly has been characterized in his career), discipline issues kept him from being able to play that style effectively enough to earn an everyday spot.
While a better option defensively than Simth-Pelly, in 44 games over three part seasons, Matteau has just five points and 23 PIMs, and has dressed in only 20 games this season.
Matteau is a reclamation project. With one additional year on an entry-level contract, at just $612 500, that is an inexpensive gamble, though he may — as the player he was traded for — end up taking a spot away from one of the Habs' own prospects in order to make that progress toward an NHL-calibre player.
Smith-Pelly's time with the team was just about at an end, no matter how you slice it, after failing to reach the potential many had outlined for him. The return was always going to be minimal, with no chance of a pick in the top four or five rounds in the draft in the best of years, let alone a 2015-16 season in which teams have been reluctant to give up their spots in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. Getting a player back (albeit one in need of some serious work) is an achievement for Marc Bergevin.
Matteau now has a second chance to prove that he can play in the NHL. Hopefully he seizes the opportunity more firmly than Devante Smith-Pelly was able to. Fortunately, he won't have to live up to the hype of being a first-round pick for his new team, and shouldn't be constantly compared to the player he was traded for.