Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta is out of the hospital Wednesday night.
Olli Maatta has been released from the hospital. He is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with an upper body injury. pic.twitter.com/31muXjbPMy— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) November 18, 2015
All in all, Maatta probably dodged a bullet to not have any serious internal injuries, or broken bones from getting violently shoved from behind into the opened bench door.
But what's next for the Pens in Maatta's absence?
According to General Fanager the Pens currently have $337k in cap space, which wouldn't be enough to make a recall, unless the Pens put Maatta on LTIR. If the Penguins decide to put Maatta on long-term injury reserve, he will have to be out for 10 games/24 days, which would mean his quickest possible return would be against Washington on 12/14. That would be 1 day short of 4 full weeks from the injury, which fits the timetable of his absence.
Best bet probably seems to LTIR him, give him the time to heal, and also have the space for a replacement.
You knew this was coming, right? One thing we've learned from dps's Wilkes-Barre Weekly's is that the 21-year old Pouliot has been pretty good on the ice with 3 goals and 7 assists in 12 games. He's also got a +7, which is one of the better marks on the team, but remember the team is also 12-1-0 and almost everyone has a great +/- at this point.
Is Pouliot ready to make it back to the NHL after a really bad training camp that he even admitted stunk-on-toast? Was 12 games in the minors enough? The Penguins need some talent, so it might be time to find out.
Oleksy has 62 career NHL games with Washington over the past 3 seasons, and the 29-year old would bring some added toughness and ruggedness not currently on the team with his physical style and willingness to hit. Oleksy would be perfect in a 6/7 role with the Penguins and find himself as the extra player, which would allow Adam Clendening the chance to play while Maatta is out.
The 27-year old O'Neill hasn't played in the NHL in his career, but last season he was one of the top scoring defensemen in the AHL, and this year he's right back on track with 11 points (3g+8a) in 12 games. He's a puck-moving, smooth-skating defenseman, and like Oleksy above O'Neill could act as the #7 and let Clendening play, waiting a chance to make his NHL debut.
Erixon made the Pens out of camp, in a #8 role, saw no ice time and was eventually demoted to Wilkes-Barre for some playing time. Is he still the next guy up? Erixon has the most NHL career experience that Pittsburgh could choose from, with 93 games at just 24 years old, and his size and ability certainly caught the Pens eye in training camp.
The fact that Pittsburgh has 4 solid candidates to be a call-up is a testament to the depth of the organization. Unfortunately, they don't have that many "NHL top 4" type defensemen, but there's no shortage of players who wouldn't look out of place in a short-term NHL role.