Olli Määttä has been a staple on the Penguins blue-line since 2013, but is his time with Pittsburgh already over?
As the Penguins reach their final games of the regular season, they’re looking to march into the playoffs with confidence and momentum. An important part of building and keeping that confidence is being healthy for game 1. One player the Penguins hope to get back soon is 24-year-old Finnish defenseman, Olli Määttä.
Määttä sustained an upper-body-injury in Philadelphia on February 11th, which has kept him out of the line-up since. In his absence, young defenseman, Marcus Pettersson, has stepped up and played big minutes. Pettersson, who just played in his 100th NHL game on Saturday, has stood his ground and has played consistently alongside newly acquired Erik Gudbranson. It’s hard to imagine Pettersson being knocked out of the line-up at this point, meaning Määttä could stay in the press-box even when cleared for game action.
The other left-side defensemen, Brian Dumoulin and Jack Johnson, have clearly solidified their spots on the roster. However, Jack Johnson does have experience playing on the right-side, meaning it’s possible Gudbranson could be slotted out in favor of Määttä and Johnson could take Gudbranson’s spot on the right. There are definitely situations in which we could see Olli Määttä again. Injuries happen and there’s no guarantee that Sullivan won’t play Määttä over Pettersson.
However, regardless of his playing time in the coming weeks, Määttä’s time in Pittsburgh could even still be nearing it’s end.
With the off-season approaching, the Penguins have to be thinking of re-signing key players. For example, Juuso Riikola, Zach Aston-Reese, Teddy Blueger, and Marcus Pettersson are all set to become free-agents this off-season and will be looking for pay-raises this summer. Moving Määttä’s $4 million contract would free up the space to bring back some, if not all, of those aforementioned names.
Määttä would also likely gather interest from teams in need of defensemen due to his young age, impressive hockey IQ, and his impressive resumé. Making a deal involving Määttä likely wouldn’t be too difficult for GM Jim Rutherford.
All of this is only speculation, of course, as Olli Määttä makes significant strides in his recovery. The future ahead of Määttä is certainly a bright one, but there’s a good chance it won’t be in Pittsburgh much longer.