Pens’ Defenseman Olli Maatta To Make Roster?

Sep 16, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta (3) and Detroit Red Wings right wing Jordin Tootoo (22) chase the puck during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Detroit Red Wings won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

 

Already log jammed on the defensive side, is it possible that the Pittsburgh Penguins end up keeping their highly-touted prospect Olli Maatta on the roster regardless?

According to Michelle Crechiolo of the Pittsburgh Penguins official team website, Maatta was paired up with Norris finalist Kris Letang during Wednesday’s practice, speculating that the young blueliner could potentially be in line to ultimately stay with the team.

Maatta, who performed in Tuesday’s preseason matchup against the Detroit Red Wings, also participated in the Pens’ rookie tournament earlier this month and opened up the eyes of the coaching staff.

Specifically Alain Nasreddine.

Nasreddine, who served as the Pens’ assistant coach during the tournament (John Hynes was the head coach), had high praise for Maatta’s skill set and foresaw giving the Pens’ coaching staff a tough decision on whether or not to keep him – according to Crechiolo.

Here’s what he said:

“He’s got an NHL body, he’s got the hockey sense, really good hockey sense.  So he’s good.  He’s going to be good.  I think he’s going to force the management’s hand as far as pushing for a spot.”

There’s also the question as to how the Pens will meet the salary cap limit because they’re currently $1,098,333 over the amount allowed — which could also benefit Maatta.

According to Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh knows that they can meet the salary cap by sending defenseman Simon Despres to the AHL, and he’s the lone skater that doesn’t have to clear waivers — considering he’s signed under an entry-level contract.

While that prediction about Despres is contradictory towards Maatta making the team — because they’re both signed to entry-level deals — it could also forecast that Pittsburgh is favoring Maatta over Despres, due to the fact Despres partnered up with Letang most of last season.

Pittsburgh also knows that another player is making a sufficient amount of money, preventing them from keeping both on the active roster — Matt Niskanen.

Niskanen, who is set to make 2.3 million this season, will become an unrestricted free agent next year, making him a prime target to potentially be moved and clear up some cap space for Despres/Maatta.

Although a deal is unlikely to take place before the start of the 2013-14 regular-season, Pens’ fans also realize that Ray Shero is one of the most active and spontaneous general manager’s in the league, clearly capable of pulling off a trade at the most unexpected time.

With that being said, it’s hard to predict whether or not Shero will make a trade happen; however, because we get reports that Maatta is paired up with Letang, it could mean Pittsburgh will see Maatta on its roster at some point this season.

For now, in my opinion, I’d say that Maatta will play elsewhere for at least the start of the year.

In 58 regular-season contests for the London Knights (OHL) last year, Maatta compiled 32 points (5G, 27A) and scored a phenomenal 23 points (6G, 17A) in 19 postseason games.

 

Topics: Pittsburgh Penguins

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  • Derrick Graffius

    If Maatta starts the year in London then he spends the whole year there. He can play a number of games in the NHL to start the season (I think the figure is less than 10) and still be eligible to return to the OHL, but once he is sent down he cannot be recalled until their season is over.

    And you may be reading too much into the pairing, Maatta was with Letang in Game 2 as well. And the other group has Pouliot paired up with Scuderi. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Scuderi is paired up with the young offensive D prospect while Letang is paired up with the young two-way defensive prospect. They are both serving as mentors and preparing for the regular season when Letang and Scuderi are supposed to spend a good deal of time together.

    Pouliot, who needs to develop his play in his own zone, matched up with the shutdown D Scuderi. Maatta, the defensive two-way D that some would liek to see improve offensively paired up with Letang. Seems to me like they are preparing for the future, not necessarily assuming they will be playing in the NHL this year.

    • Johnny

      I agree with you Derrick, but I did say this was all just speculation right now. Maatta could just be getting his reps in with Letang because he’s more defensive minded you’re right — but wouldn’t they rather try to get Despres more practices with Letang considering they’re presumably paired for the upcoming season? Like I said though, it’s all speculation.

      • Johnny

        Nobody knows at this point.

        • Derrick Graffius

          I’m not expecting them to use Despres with Letang anymore. I was, and fought against the suggestion that Scuderi would be paired with Letang (and still want to see a Scuderi-Bortuzzo secondary shutdown pair), but then I saw how well Scuderi and Letang meshed in training camp, and how lost Despres looked, and not just the first day when he was sick.

          Despres is an RFA this coming summer, and he’s likely going to be looking for a decent raise since he may or may not be capable of being a Top 4 D. But we don’t need another Top 4 D right now (and have Dumoulin who is even better than Despres and still under an Entry Level deal), so it wouldn’t make sense to pay him a ton of money to play on the 3rd pair. That’s why everybody wants to get rid of Niskanen, he makes too much to be a #5 D.

          So I’m expecting Scuderi to be Letang’s primary partner this season. And that if they do wind up trading Niskanen to get under the Cap rather than the suggestion that somehow sending Despres back to WBS is enough to get under, I’m still half expecting Dumoulin to beat out Despres for the final roster spot. And either way, I’m expecting Despres to get traded at some point in the season rather than losing him to free agency in the summer.