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Penguins trade speculation: Could Olli Maatta be the next to go?

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Reading between the lines, the Finnish defenseman could be the next out of Pittsburgh

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Penguins made a splash on Wednesday, trading two-time Stanley Cup champion Carl Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for left winger Tanner Pearson.

But general manager Jim Rutherford’s job in switching things might not be done just yet.

“We felt that we needed to make some changes,” Rutherford said in the presser announcing the Hagelin trade on Wednesday. “This could be the start of more changes or we’ll see how this goes here for a little bit. But the way things have gone for the first part of the season, it’s obvious we had to change something out.”

As Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman pointed out in his 31 Thoughts column, another west coast team could be talking trade with Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford celebrated his contract extension by trading Carl Hagelin to Los Angeles for Tanner Pearson. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan loved Hagelin, who will be a free agent. They will try to revive Pearson, without a goal in his last 30 regular-season and playoff games.

Do not discount the possibility of Rutherford and Anaheim’s Bob Murray trying a lateral “change-of-scenery” trade. Those don’t happen much anymore, but they’ve done it before (Hagelin-David Perron in 2016). Both are looking for change, and the rumoured names were not involved in this trade.

Friedman didn’t specify the “rumored names” of a potential Ducks and Penguins trade, but it doesn’t take much detective work to see what could be in play.

Anaheim, like Pittsburgh, is near the salary cap. Any trade will have to be having similar salaries exchanged in a “change of scenery”. Thus, you can probably drop Daniel Sprong here, as the Ducks don’t really have any young, talent but unable to establish themselves type of prospects - and that wouldn’t really bring the “change” Friedman mentions on a large scale anyways to flip minor players.

Rutherford already addressed an issue with offense - and he figures to get center Derick Brassard back from injury sooner than later too, which should also boost depth and secondary scoring. The offense, for the time being, has received a jolt.

If there’s a trade to be made with Anaheim and Pittsburgh (supported by the logic Friedman offers that ANA wasn’t interested in Hagelin anyways), as our buddy ck hit earlier - it’s likely to be on defense.

Scanning the Pens roster and salary cap chart, there’s one player in the sweet spot of “having league interest with age, salary, ability” and also “player Pittsburgh would be OK with trading”. With that in mind, you can cross out Jack Johnson and Jamie Oleksiak for the former reason, and Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin get removed for the latter option. Injured Justin Schultz isn’t get dealt either.

That leaves Olli Maatta, still just 24-years of age that could probably use a change of scenery into a new style, and with four years left on a cap hit of $4.08 million per year represents a decent enough value.

Neither Anaheim nor Pittsburgh has the cap space to be very fancy. Luckily for both, Josh Manson at $4.10 million per year with four years left has an almost identical contract to Maatta. As a right-handed shot and with only four points in 15 games this season (after putting up 37 last year) it might could be argued Manson could be moved, though as a team-high +6, it’s not like he is exactly struggling by any means, at least in the eyes of his GM.

Another option could be right-handed shot Brandon Montour who is equal to Maatta in age (24) and a team-low -7 on the season. Is management frustrated with Montour? The Ducks are off to a slow start and may be looking for a shake-up and adding a two-time Cup winner in Maatta who can play top-four minutes for them might be appealing.

Rutherford did say, “this could be the start of more changes or we’ll see how this goes here for a little bit” so it remains to be seen low liberal he is with a “a little bit” given how poor defensively the Pens have looked this season.

As Friedman notes, rumblings of a PIT-ANA trade are around, and defense makes a ton of sense if both teams want to swap talented and young top-four options with similar salaries and contract terms.

One other note Friedman pointed out about the Pens was interesting too:

With Rutherford mildly annoyed at his team, one of the players who most intrigues opposing teams isn’t even on his current roster. That would be Calen Addison, a right-shooting defenceman at WHL Lethbridge. Addison, taken 53rd in last June’s draft, has 20 points in his first 18 games. Two of the three defenders ahead of him in scoring were 2018 first-rounders: Spokane’s Ty Smith (17th, New Jersey) and Red Deer’s Alexander Alexeyev (31st, Washington).

“Intrigues” doesn’t always mean “will be traded” but it’s not surprising to see Addison shooting up the interest already. Addison is in-line to likely be a power play specialist on the defense of Team Canada’s World Junior team, and a successful performance there will surely shoot his value even higher.

That said, in every trade the Penguins inquire about, the other GM has a starting point of Jake Guentzel - whether Pittsburgh is attempting to trade for Max Pacioretty or a guy at the deadline. Any team can ask or start the negotiation anywhere.

But, Rutherford does deal first-round picks on the reg, and he traded top goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson to Ottawa last year, so it’s clear he is willing to use all the capital he has in the form of futures to take a run at making the best current team possible. If I’m calling the shots for the Pens, I try to hang on to Addison until you find out what he has as a pro, or unless another team places such a high value on him that it would bring back a very generous NHL caliber player return. That seems unlikely and foolish on the other GM’s part, so for now Pittsburgh should probably use the 2019 first round pick and even Daniel Sprong as trade chips before having to resort to dealing younger prospects.

Either way, if the team doesn’t start performing, someone else from the roster is likely to go. Reading between the tea leaves, that could well be Maatta.