Olli Maatta’s Pittsburgh Career Up in the Air

untitledBy Rachel Mangan

Olli Maatta has had a lot of bad luck in his short career thus far, but the baby-faced 22-year-old blonde has always shown nothing but determination and perseverance. After suffering from shoulder injuries, mumps, concussion, and even cancer, the young defenseman has always found his way back to the ice.

On February 26, 2016, Maatta was rewarded for his efforts with a six-year contract extension.

According to Spotrac, the contract is worth $24.5 million, with an average salary of about $4 million a year.

In his first campaign with the Penguins in the 2013-2014 season, Maatta proved himself to be a force to be reckoned with ending the season as the team’s rookie of the year, with a total of nine goals and 20 assists.

Things went south, though, as Maata’s second season with the Pens was limited to a mere 20 games. The 20-year-old was diagnosed with a cancerous thyroid tumor that had to be surgically removed. Removing the tumor did not require any chemotherapy or radiation treatment and, he was projected to have a full recovery.

Maatta then had two shoulder surgeries only 8 months apart after re-injuring the shoulder, along with a bruised kidney from being checked into an open bench door during a game against the Minnesota Wild.

But even while recovering from cancer and the mumps, which he contracted only two weeks after having the tumor removed, Maatta seemed unfazed by his stint with bad luck (via Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated).

“We were making dinners for him, asking if he wanted to stay certain places, bring his family around, he was like, ‘Nah, I’ll be fine. I’ll be good on my own,’” assistant general manager Bill Guerin says. “I don’t know. Just taking care of himself. He didn’t want the extra attention. He just wanted to get the procedure done and move on. I think he was very appreciative of that, but it was almost like, ‘I’m okay. Don’t worry about me. I’m good.’”

After all that Maatta has endured, he’s never faltered in putting in all his effort to being the best he can be on the ice. There have been cases where, according to Prewitt of Sports Illustrated, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has gone to strength coaches to try and get Maatta to leave the gym because he’s remained there doing more sets and reps long after the rest of the team has gone home.

However, despite his determination and perseverance, could Maatta find himself being shipped off to another team at some point before the trade deadline? After returning from an injury sustained during the Stanley Cup playoffs, Olli Maatta found himself benched as a healthy scratch during the conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Games Two and Four.

Maatta was consistently being burned on the blue line, unable to match speed or read plays. However, Maatta got a second chance to redeem himself after Trevor Daley sustained an ankle injury that would make him miss the rest of the playoffs. Entering into the finals against the San Jose Sharks, Maatta played arguably the best hockey of his career. The benching appeared to be a huge wake up call.

The 22-year-old blue liner has his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, but has had very little production so far in this 2016-2017 campaign. Although, statistically, Maatta isn’t showing all that bad of numbers, he’s not showing promising ones either.

In 13 games played, Maatta has recorded a measly single assist and is currently a plus 6 player. Pittsburgh is a team that has struggled with salary cap issues, and unless Maatta starts producing more assists and more goals, his lack of production could lead him to being traded to alleviate strain on the salary cap.

Maatta also has several Wilkes-Barre defenseman on his back that are just itching for a spot in the Penguins’ lineup. If it weren’t for the early and long-term injury to Derrick Pouliot, could fans be seeing the two blue liners try to out perform each other to get ice time? Bill West of TribLive thinks Maata could be in some trouble in terms of playing time with the Penguins:

“While he waited for the health setbacks to end, Maatta watched as Brian Dumoulin evolved into a shutdown defenseman and Derrick Pouliot continued to develop his defensive instincts. The addition of Justin Schultz and Trevor Daley last season put even more smooth-skating, puck-moving defensemen into the mix.”

All in all, Maatta has overcome so many roadblocks and was rewarded with a very nice raise and a six-year extension to his contract, but his lack of production could leave him to be traded to another team at the deadline.

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Author: Hammer Down Sports Blog

Sports analysis with a strong foundation.

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