The Los Angeles Kings have acquired defender Olli Maatta from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for forward prospect Brad Morrison. Chicago will also be retaining 18.4 percent ($750,108) of Maatta’s $4,083,333 cap hit for the next two years. This will be Maatta’s third team since signing the six-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.
The Finnish defender was selected in the first round (22nd overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft after his first season with the London Knights of the OHL. He made his NHL debut a year later, playing the full 2013-14 season with the Penguins. Maatta put up 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) in his freshman campaign.
A young Maatta became a key part of both Penguins’ Stanley Cup runs in 2016 and 2017, as the blueline struggled to stay healthy. Maatta himself had his own run of injuries, as well as a low-grade thyroid cancer that took him out of the line-up for 22 days and a mumps diagnosis, altogether limiting him to just 20 games in the 2014-15 campaign.
On June 15, 2019, Maatta was traded to the Blackhawks in exchange for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the 2019 Draft. In his first season with Chicago, Maatta scored 17 points (4 goals, 13 assists) in 65 games. In the 2019 postseason, he then led the D-corps with three goals and six points in nine postseason games.
But the Blackhawks are heading toward a cap crunch, with 16 out of 23 roster players under contract and approximately $7.83 million in cap space prior to dealing Maatta. With a little over $11 million now, the team is still figuring out their goaltending situation, as Corey Crawford faces unrestricted free agency and Malcolm Subban is a pending restricted free agent. There’s also forwards Dominik Kubalik — who finished third in Calder Trophy voting this season — and Dylan Strome, the third overall pick in 2015.
With a crop of prospects looking for a shot in Chicago, Maatta — though sometimes brilliant, but inconsistently so — and his contract became expendable. Per ESPN, the team considered buying out the remainder of Maatta’s contract. This likely helped Kings general manager Rob Blake convince Stan Bowman to hang on to that 18.4 percent of Maatta’s salary.
Though the Kings still have more than $13.6 million in projected cap space and a roster mostly filled out, if Maatta’s luck runs out, a $3.3 million Olli Maatta is more palatable than a $4 million Olli Maatta in the way that our brain tells us $5.99 isn’t quite the same as spending $6. And if his luck doesn’t run out, then hey, it’s even more of a bargain.
“Olli is a well-rounded player who will fit well with our group of defensemen,” said Rob Blake in a statement. “He is a young player that already has a lot of valuable NHL experience, including a pair of Stanley Cups, and we look forward to having him join our organization.”
Brad Morrison was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. He scored 19 points (6 goals, 13 assists) in 17 games for the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets in the 2019-20 season. The 23-year-old forward had 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) in 50 AHL games for the Ontario Reign the previous year.