Forced to try to out-score their defensive inefficiencies last season, the Chicago Blackhawks seem focused on shoring things up on the back end.
Chicago acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday evening for forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round puck in next weekend’s draft. Surely this was a move completed with the Blackhawks’ second-from-the-bottom finish in goals against last season in mind.
Maatta left a little bit to be desired in what was a somewhat mediocre season by his standards. Limited to just one goal and 14 points, Maatta also featured some of the worst underlying data of his six-year career to go along with underwhelming totals.
Still, while not spectacular and lacking some foot speed, Maatta is an undeniably serviceable defender locked into a cost-controlled contract. He’ll earn just a shade over $4 million for the next three seasons, which will help the Blackhawks in their continued efforts to navigate under the pressures of the salary cap.
For now, the move leaves Pittsburgh thin on the blue line — even when trading from a surplus. It leaves Brian Dumoulin, Jack Johnson and the unsigned Marcus Pettersson as the remaining left-shot defenders on the Penguins’ roster.
Kahun had an encouraging rookie season for the Blackhawks. He scored 13 goals and totalled 37 points, contributing 1.9 points per 60 minutes at even strength with the first of three seasons priced at less than $1 million.
It’s worth pointing out that Alex DeBrincat and Jonathan Toews were Kahun’s most common linemates, which will have certainly influenced the encouraging start to his career. But as long as Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel remain spread across three lines, the same sort of opportunity awaits Kahun in Pittsburgh.
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