The Los Angeles Kings announced they have traded for defenseman Olli Maatta, acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks for ECHL prospect Brad Morrison. The Blackhawks will also retain $750K of Maatta’s contract as part of the deal, bringing down Maatta’s salary cap number to around $3.33MM.
“Olli is a well-rounded player who will fit well with our group of defensemen,” said Vice President and General Manager Rob Blake. “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.”
For the Kings, the team just acquired a two-time Stanley Cup champion for practically nothing besides that two year, $3.33MM AAV price tag. Maatta, who originally signed a six-year, $24.5MM contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in 2016. While he has struggled with his play the last few years, he still should make an immediate impact with Los Angeles, who needs as much defensive help as it can. After star defenseman Drew Doughty, Maatta likely becomes the second best defenseman on the team as most of their defense is comprised of younger, unestablished players.
Of course, Maatta hasn’t been nearly as sharp since signing that deal, especially considering the original costly $4.1MM AAV. With only two years of more than 20 points on his offensive resume, Maatta has even had some trouble dominating on the defensive side and found himself on the Penguins’ third pairing before they traded him last offseason to Chicago. His play wasn’t much better with the Blackhawks where he put up four goals and 17 points in 65 games. However, Maatta did play better in the playoffs, posting three goals and six points in nine playoff games for Chicago.
For Chicago, it’s a great deal to free up as much cap room. The team has a number of key players it must re-sign, including unrestricted free agent goaltender Corey Crawford as well as the need to work out long-term extensions with restricted free agents Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik, who have become top-six players recently. Because of that, unloading Maatta’s contract was expected to occur at some point. There was some discussion that the Blackhawks had planned to buy out Maatta if they couldn’t find a trade option. With Maatta’s contract (or most of it) off the books, the team now has $11.1MM of available cap space with 16 players signed.
While the loss of Maatta takes away a veteran from the team’s defense, the Blackhawks are loaded with young defensive players who look close to NHL-ready, including Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Nicolas Beaudin and Lucas Carlsson, amongst others.
Chicago did acquire Morrison, who played 50 games at the AHL level in 2018-19, but found himself in the ECHL with the Fort Wayne Comets where he played just 17 games. A fourth-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2015, has one year remaining on his entry-level contract.