The Pittsburgh Penguins have traded Olli Maatta to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Dominik Kahun, as well as a 2019 fifth-round draft pick.
With Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford having declared that changes would be coming during this offseason, Maatta’s trade comes as the first one. The defender has three years remaining on his deal, a contract which carries a $4 million salary cap hit per season, but will join a defense that has been begging for improvement for years now – so that works out quite well for Chicago.
For Pittsburgh, the move fixes a log jam, given that there were as many as eight defenders either under contract or under the control of the team. And, considering the team’s defence had taken a step back over the course of the season and was exposed by the New York Islanders during the playoffs, it was always likely that a defender would leave during the offseason.
Trading Maatta to Chicago shaves off more than $3 million in salary cap space as Kahun is still on a rookie deal that only counts for $925,000 against the cap for next season. Of course, it also helps that a roster spot has been freed too.
The 24-year-old’s exit does not solve everything, however; the Penguins still have issues remaining in their defense. Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson are still responsible for more than $7 million in cap space and Justin Schultz is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Players could be made to take on bigger roles or additional moves could be made. It is still not clear which direction the team will decide to take but, as Rutherford is well aware, changes are definitely necessary.
Kahun, a forward, offers youth up front. The 23-year-old scored 13 goals and registered 24 assists in 82 games for the Blackhawks during the season, his first in the NHL.
Maatta, who is just a year older, will bring similar youthfulness to Chicago. Despite his six years of experience in the league, he’ll only be 25 when the next campaign kicks off. The Finland native could present lots of upside, having shown top-pairing potential in his debut 2013/14 season. He’s since had to battle cancer, as well as various injuries which have seen his value go down. However, the adjustments he’s made due to certain limitations have kept him in a position where he could still make a huge impact on a team.
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The St. Louis Blues, who beat the Boston Bruins to capture the cup last week, have odds of +1400 on winning it again next season with Bet365, while their Final opponents are at +1000 with William Hill, who is also offering +750 on them toppling all challengers in the Western Conference.
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