The Chicago Blackhawks worked hard at upgrading their defense last summer by trading for Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta. De Haan fared well when healthy (he’s now out for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery). However, Maatta has struggled often and found himself often playing third-pairing minutes in his first season in Chicago and finds himself playing a career-low 17:54. The problem with Maatta is that he still has another two years on his contract at $4.08MM.
The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (along with Scott Powers — subscription required) make several predictions for 2020 for the Blackhawks, and Lazerus believes that with new pending contracts for Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Robin Lehner, the team will have to free up some cap room. He suggests that Maatta would be a logical candidate for the team to cut loose, along with forward Zack Smith. Buying out Maatta would save the team $3.4MM over the next two years, while buying out Smith would save the team $2.1MM next season. With the expected arrival of Ian Mitchell and the continued development of prospect Nicolas Beaudin, there may be no need or even roster space for Maatta.
- Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes said that Ryan Ellis and Colton Sissons, both on injured reserve, continue to make progress in their recovery. However, neither player is expected to travel with the team on their two-game road trip, starting on Sunday, to Winnipeg and Edmonton, according to The Athletic’s Adam Vingan. Ellis has been on IR since Jan. 3 with an upper-body injury, while Sissons has been out since Dec. 23 after suffering a lower-body injury.
- Vingan also reports that defenseman Dante Fabbro is close to returning after practicing with the team on Satuday. Fabbro, out since Jan. 1, but found himself paired with Mattias Ekholm in practice, which suggests he may be ready to play again. Fabbro has been solid in his rookie campaign, scoring four goals and nine points in 39 games, while averaging 19:20 of ATOI.
- NHL.com’s Mike Heika reports that Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg skated Saturday. The blueliner has missed three games already with a lower-body injury, but is expected to miss a few more as Heika adds that Klingberg isn’t ready to return yet.