According to a source close to the Pittsburgh Penguins front office, Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is now willing to move defenseman Olli Maatta to acquire complimentary third line pieces.
Tuesday, the team acquired smooth skating Marcus Pettersson for Daniel Sprong. The move added to the Penguins stockpile of left-handed defensemen who are superior skaters to Maatta. The Penguins have also been pleased with the progress of quick skating Finnish rookie Juuso Riikola.
The source indicated the Penguins don’t believe Maatta fits with their skating system as well as the less expensive options, Pettersson and Riikola. The team would like to find a taker willing to improve their middle-six forwards. The Penguins would also be open to a move which would set up another deal to do strengthen their third line.
Maatta has struggled for much of this season. However, with numerous scouts in attendance Tuesday night, Maatta played his best game of the season. His performance wasn’t unnoticed by a few of the visitors.
Maatta, 24, has eight assists this season and is a +7. He is averaging 19:26 of ice time. Last season was a rebound year for Maatta who tied his career high with 29 points (7g, 22a). His previous best was his rookie season, 2013-14.
This season Maatta has played on several pairings, but always on the left side. This season he has been paired with Jack Johnson, Jamie Oleksiak and most recently several games with Juuso Riikola. To make room for Pettersson, who played the right side Tuesday the Penguins scratched Riikola.
Maatta was on the left side of Oleksiak as the Penguins third pairing in the 6-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche.
Maatta has undergone shoulder surgeries and cancer treatments since 2014. The source expressed the Penguins are not unhappy with Maatta but feel the foot speed of the other defensemen is more advantageous. Maatta is in the third year of a six-year, $24.5 million contract with an average annual value of $4.083 million.
He was one of two Penguins first-round picks in 2012.