The Pittsburgh Penguins will keep defenseman Olli Maatta beyond the nine-game cutoff. Kris Letang has yet to play a regular season game, and that opened the door for the 19 year-old to make an impression. They’re tough to impress in Pittsburgh, but the youngster did enough during his trial period to earn a spot on the roster moving forward.
BREAKING: Olli Maatta will remain with #Pens. Ray Shero:”Based on his play, we believe this is the best decision for Olli & the Penguins…”
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) October 24, 2013
This news would have been surprising a few weeks ago, given Pittsburgh’s depth on the blue line but there’s no doubt that Maatta been one of their top-six defensemen in 2013-14. The Pens are now carrying seven big-league defenders, and with Letang set to return this weekend, the defensive zone just got a little crowded.
The injury history of several Penguin defensemen makes this move make more sense though, not less.
Maatta is averaging more than 15 minutes a night and has already posted three points this year. It’s likely that he’ll continue to bolt down the third pairing for the Pens, while Letang suits up and plays next to Brooks Orpik. Rob Scuderi and Paul Martin will likely round out the second pairing, with Maatta playing alongside Matt Niskanen.
That leaves Deryk Engelland out in the cold, but the Penguins will straight up win more games with Maatta in the lineup than they would with Engelland. Maatta will grow into a better player, sooner in Pittsburgh than he would if he returned to the junior level, and two or three years down the road this keep will look like a stroke of genius.