Trade Winds Blowing: Olli Maatta to Chicago, Matt Niskanen to Philadelphia

Trade Winds Blowing: Olli Maatta to Chicago, Matt Niskanen to Philadelphia

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Defenseman Olli Maatta is one Pittsburgh Penguins player who could be on the move.

It has been an active start to the offseason with a couple of trades to kick things off. Plus, there have been a few buyouts (expected) as well. The first trade was Matt Niskanen heading to Philadelphia for Radko Gudas. Then, a second trade involved the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks. Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick for Olli Maatta. Thanks to CapFriendly once again:

TEAM PLAYER TRANSACTION RIGHTS ACQUIRED
Jun 15, 2019
Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Penguins Dominik Kahun Traded from CHI
Chicago Blackhawks Chicago Blackhawks Olli Määttä Traded from PIT
Jun 14, 2019
Washington Capitals Washington Capitals Radko Gudas Traded from PHI
Philadelphia Flyers Philadelphia Flyers Matt Niskanen Traded from WSH

The Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins executed these “salary dumps” to clear cap room. Now, there is debate as to which one did it better as always. The idea is to examine the trades first and maybe see what else could come trickling down. Anything, let’s begin.

Matt Niskanen swapped for Radko Gudas

This one caused many to scratch their heads, especially on the Philadelphia Flyers end. It was not just the trade but the idea the Flyers retained 30% of Radko Gudas’ salary. Washington has just one year of the Gudas deal left while Philadelphia has two years of Niskanen.

Niskanen turns 33 in December and has appeared to lost a step. Gudas is just 29 and could play a bigger role in Washington than he did with the Flyers. One good thing for Matt Niskanen is he can still skate well enough out of his own zone in transition. Another is he has 15 goals in the last two seasons.

With the good, comes the bad, and then the worse. Niskanen shooting at around 5.5% is almost a third above his 4.2% average in Washington. Also, the defenseman’s relative possession percentages dipped to -3%.

Finally, his production dropped to 25 points while playing nearly 22 minutes a night. One wrinkle in his game was hits and blocks which were both over 135 this season. As a few pundits mentioned, his transition to a more stay-at-home player has begun.

The difference is Gudas can punish and still deliver the occasional offense. It is hard to know what he can do when the physical blueliner played around 17 minutes a night. Can he handle tougher minutes? It’s plausible at least. Despite an offensive zone percentage of just 41.7%, Gudas still had a relative possession around +1%.

So, Washington gained cap space and arguably got more physical down the middle of the ice. Suspensions are a risk no question but Gudas could see an expanded role while Niskanen sees a 4D role.

Olli Maatta traded for Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick 

Again, Pittsburgh seems to pull a rabbit out of the hat to gain some cap space and acquire some offense as well. Maatta turns 25 at the start of the 2019-20 season while Kahun will be 24. Pittsburgh gains over $3 million in cap space by moving Olli Maatta.

The concerns on both players have been documented. Most think of Dominik Kahun as a middle-six forward who enjoyed a breakout season by fluke. Then, there is Olli Maatta who is up one season and down the next. His relative possession to average is mostly negative but again he only averages 18 minutes a night or so. Unfortunately, Maatta’s health is troubling. He missed 130 games in six seasons.

Offensive production is a complete guessing game with Maatta. His inconsistency is frustrating given his ability to carry the puck and shoot pretty well. The problems lie in his transition game — defense to offense and vice versa. It appears the defenseman does not have the vital first few strides needed to seamlessly shift. That’s a big problem.

Alas, if this happened a few times, it would not be so bad. Unfortunately, Maatta sees this occur too often. His first few strides look awkward at best and he often gets beat or a puck gets stolen from him because of it. Is it correctable? That’s a great question because no one has figured it out yet.

As for Dominik Kahun, he played 14 minutes a night and totaled 37 points. Can he replicate that in Pittsburgh? The answer is yes. Kahun may even see some power-play time or even time with Sidney Crosby. Upward mobility remains possible.

What other fallout may come?

Another great question is what may be next from Pittsburgh. The sense is Pittsburgh may not be done. Jim Rutherford may eye Wayne Simmonds or perhaps a way to still get out of the Jack Johnson contract. Stay tuned as the Olli Maatta deal may have only been the beginning.