LA Kings: Three reasons why the Olli Maatta trade was perfect

LA Kings (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
LA Kings (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images) /

On Sunday, the LA Kings found their left-shot defenseman in Olli Maatta. Here are three reasons why the trade was darn-near perfect.

While most of the folks in the United States were getting settled in to watch their respective football teams on Sunday, the LA Kings were busy finalizing a deal to acquire the left-shot defenseman they had been targeting since the offseason began. Rob Blake and the Kings’ front office have had plenty of time to evaluate all options, given they did not qualify for the league’s postseason bubble.

Olli Maatta was drafted 22nd overall in the 2012 NHL Draft and won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He posted career-best numbers in the 2017-2018 campaign, logging a league-best 82 games played with 7 goals and 22 assists for 29 points.

Prior to the 2016-2017 season, the Penguins inked him to a six-year contract extension. After the 2018-2019 season, the Penguins traded Maatta to the Blackhawks with the latter club raving about his sound, defensive game. In his one and only season with Chicago, the 26-year-old blueliner scored 4 goals with 13 assists for 17 points while averaging 18:25 on-ice time and a 5.0 shot percentage.

He saw an increased role when the Blackhawks dealt Erik Gustafsson at the trade deadline, which carried over to a strong postseason. In 9 games, Maatta scored 3 goals with 3 assists while on the third pairing with Slater Koekkoek. Analytically, he’s been worth every penny of his contract.

And here are three reasons why the trade was perfect for the LA Kings.

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1. Immediate upgrade

What pairing he slots into remains to be determined, Maatta is a major upgrade over both rostered players in Kurtis MacDermid and Mikey Anderson. The latter is simply because Maatta has been in the league for several years compared to Anderson’s 6 games played at the end of last year. MacDermid is likely pushed into the team’s seventh defender role with the trade, as he contributed a 1.3 point-share in the 2019-2020 campaign.

Maatta is an excellent shot-blocker and an extremely physical defenseman, logging at least 110 blocked shots and hits last season. While he leans towards the defensive side of the puck, Maatta has a higher offensive upside than MacDermid, who scored a career-high 3 goals this past year. The now-former Chicago Blackhawk has been excellent on the PK and before last year, was utilized on the Penguins power play units, adding a career-best 8 assists on the man advantage in 2017-2018. Look for the LA to utilize him in a similar fashion.

2. Playoff experience

While the Kings don’t figure to be in the playoffs next year, Maatta has the potential to be around for much longer than just the two years remaining on his contract. As noted, he went off in the playoffs for the Blackhawks last year, and he has 78 career playoff games under his belt. When the Kings are ready to make a postseason run, Maatta’s experience in the playoffs is going to be a major contributor when compared to both MacDermid and unrestricted free agent Ben Hutton, who both have yet to play in the postseason.

Drew Doughty is the only other member on the blueline with significant playoff experience, logging 84 career games, and obviously has two Stanley Cups of his own. The veteran presence of both Doughty and Maatta will go a long way toward helping the likes of Bjornfot, Clague, and Anderson develop as well.

3. Kept all draft capital

When the trade news first broke, I was expecting to see a draft pick to be included. To this point, we knew that the LA Kings were willing to include up to a second-round pick in this week’s draft to acquire a left-shot defenseman. The fact that they had to only give up Brad Morrison, who was never going to play for the Kings, is highway robbery.

For Chicago, this was purely a salary cap dump without being on the hook for Maatta’s buyout costs. But the fact that the Kings could acquire their guy without even touching the prospect pool or their stockpiled draft capital is a victory in itself. With Maatta now on board, the Kings’ front office can turn their full attention to the 2020 NHL Draft, where the organization holds 11 picks, including four in the first two rounds.

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Don’t be surprised if the Kings still package a couple of second-round picks to move back into the first round, but they have many options that they can go with the move. Helge Grans would be a good defenseman to target, whose stock has skyrocketed since last summer, and several mock drafts have him going at the end of the first round.