With the impending decision as to where defenseman Olli Maatta will play, when it comes down to it, the team is basically deciding between him and Robert Bortuzzo.
Maatta has been on a nine-game NHL tryout and has impressed tremendously; however, once Kris Letang returns, is Pittsburgh going to be able to keep slotting him into the lineup?
Letang, Paul Martin, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi have all solidified their starting status’, and that means the final spot will come down to either Bortuzzo or Maatta.
Despite that final slot being one of the reasons as to whether or not Maatta will stay, the team also realizes that if he plays into his 10th game his three-year entry-level contract will begin, and he will also become an unrestricted free-agent one year sooner should he perform in 40 contests.
It’s a tough ultimatum for Pittsburgh to make because they know that Maatta is a talent that’s been contributing mightily for the team, but they also understand the ramifications of keeping him in the NHL.
The other factor is if he’ll be able to handle the full 82 games this season, considering he’s played roughly 20 less contests in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the London Knights, and the workload could be too much for a 19-year-0ld.
Now, obviously they probably won’t overplay him, and therefore will result in him sitting out a few contests, but will they do that knowing that Bortuzzo could probably play the entire year.
Bortuzzo, 24, isn’t as much offensively gifted as he is defensively, but he’s valuable in terms of matching up with opposing teams’ size and can pitch in with distributing a sufficient forecheck which the Pens’ desperately need.
Although the Penguins aren’t necessarily small in size, they know that there are a lot of teams that are nothing but towering skaters, and they’ll need that enforcement on the back-end when things get stingy.
There’s a possibility that they could integrate both Bortuzzo and Maatta in there, and if they hang onto Maatta, Bortuzzo will more than likely still see a lot of playing time because of his intimidating body structure.
We won’t know what Pittsburgh is planning on doing with Maatta until Thursday or Friday Morning — a decision could come as early as today, but the organization will most likely exercise more time to deliberate.
In nine games this season, Maatta has registered three points (1G, 2A) and is skating to a minus-1 rating.
Bortuzzo has performed in seven contests and has not recorded a point. He is skating to a plus-1 rating.