Olli Maatta comes into today with a lot on his mind. Last night, in a 1-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Maatta may have played his last game in a Pittsburgh Penguins uniform for the 2013-2014 season. General Manager Ray Shero and company will have a tough decision to make before Friday night's home game against the New York Islanders. What do the Penguins do with Olli Maatta?
Maatta has put up average numbers, with 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists), but has a -1 on +/-. What has been most impressive so far is his poise at the blue line. He hasn't made noticeable mistakes or had notable lapses in judgement, two key components of being a quality d-man in the NHL.
Regardless of the impending decision, Pittsburgh fans should realize that this is a golden situation for the Penguins. Essentially, the Pens find themselves in a win-win. GM Ray Shero can either send Olli Maatta down to juniors to play and develop in his final year there, or decide to keep him on the active roster in Pittsburgh.
There's one major issue riding on this decision: Matt Niskanen. Niskanen has been the talk of many trade rumors this season. It's widely believed that if Maatta joins the roster, then Niskanen will be traded. Though the Penguins are in need of some more depth at forward, the Penguins may be giving up too much by trading away Matt Niskanen. He is having a career year in the first nine games of 2013. He tallied the game-winning goal against Tampa Bay, he's racked up 5 assists, totaling 6 points on the year, and is also boasting a 9 on his +/-.
This is a contract year for Niskanen, who becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Niskanen is set to make $2.5 million this season before entering the market next season. Olli Maatta, on the other hand, is only set to make $925,000 this season. For a team who's heavy on cap and light on depth, this is tempting. Especially considering cheap forwards could come to Pittsburgh in a deal for Niskanen.
What do you do?
The biggest question today: Is Olli Maatta worth the roster spot? Use the poll to decide and leave your thoughts in the comments. I'll respond to what I can and keep the debate going.
At the end of the day, this is, again, a golden situation for the Pittsburgh Penguins. It's a tough decision and one that will certainly have an impact on not only the 2013-2014 season, but for years to come.
Kevin Dorsey - @_kevindorsey