The Pittsburgh Penguins have lost one of their defensemen for the time being, as Olli Maatta has been placed on injured reserve. The team announced that Maatta will be out indefinitely following an upper-body injury suffered last night.
Pittsburgh was just about to experience their full defensive corps given Justin Schultz’ imminent return from injury, but will now have to deal with another glaring hole on the back end. Maatta, for all the flaws that have been pointed out in his game over the years—mostly regarding his skating ability—has been an effective defensive zone and short-handed option for the Penguins all season. Schultz doesn’t fill that specific role, so the team will need to lean even more heavily on the likes of Brian Dumoulin and Jack Johnson.
The injury, which appears to be to Maatta’s shoulder, will hopefully not keep the 24-year old out of the playoffs where he has performed admirably over the years. During the team’s 2017 Stanley Cup run, Maatta logged nearly 21 minutes a night in the absence of Kris Letang. Even last season Maatta was a reliable playoff option on the blue line, easily leading the defense corps with a +8 rating in 12 games.
If he is facing a long-term recovery, it will be interesting to see if the Penguins go out and add another name to their group for the stretch run. They traded away Jamie Oleksiak earlier this season despite his positive contributions, and don’t have an obvious option in the minor leagues should anyone else suffer an injury. Losing Maatta doesn’t cripple the Penguins, but it is certainly a damaging blow.