With a surplus of defensemen on their roster, the Penguins were going to have to make a move and unload one of their defensemen as the team already had Kris Letang, Justin Schultz, Brian Dumoulin, Erik Gudbranson, Jack Johnson, Chad Ruhwedel and Marcus Pettersson on the NHL roster. Maatta was a prime candidate to be moved after a so-so season in which the 24-year-old went from a seven-goal, 29-point season in 2017-18 to a one-goal, 14-point season this past year. Injuries have also plagued Maatta as he missed six weeks with an upper-body injury late in the season.
It looks like Pittsburgh got good value in return for Maatta, however, as they team picks up Kahun, who had an impressive rookie season for Chicago. The 23-year-old signed a two-year entry-level deal out of Germany and immediately proved his worth by making the Blackhawks’ squad out of training camp and showed off his versatility by being able to play any forward position. He contributed 13 goals and 37 points, but with the number of NHL forwards that Chicago has on its roster, the team had the luxury of trading one away to bolster its defensive core. Kahun should bolster the team’s middle-six, providing offense on whatever line the team needs.
“He is a speedy, versatile player capable of playing all three forward positions,” said Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford. “He also saw time on Chicago’s power-play and penalty killing units. We are very excited for him to join our team.”
While adding Kahun, perhaps the biggest plus to the trade was freeing up some cap space. By moving his three years and $4.08MM contract and acquiring the cheaper Kahun ($925K), the Penguins have added $3.16MM in cap space this season. The Penguins also add a coveted draft pick for this year, even if it’s in the fifth round. Pittsburgh had already traded away its second, third, fourth and sixth-round picks for this draft, so adding a second fifth-rounder helps make up for those lost picks.
For Chicago, with $19MM in projected cap space this offseason, adding Maatta’s contract wasn’t a problem and the team still is expected to have more than $17MM in cap space to make more moves this offseason. The team needed to add some experienced depth to its team and it likely was going to do it via trade. The fact that Maatta is left-handed, however, will have him battling with a group of left-handers for playing time, including Duncan Keith, Erik Gustafsson, Slater Koekkoek and Carl Dahlstrom.