The Pittsburgh Penguins ran out the clock on making their decision, but on Thursday morning they announced that defenseman Olli Maatta would remain with the big club, and not be sent back to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Since Maatta is too young (19) to be sent to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL), the Penguins had nine games to decide whether they would keep him in the NHL or send him back to his junior team. The Penguins’ first round pick (22nd overall) in the 2012 draft, Maatta has one goal and three points during his nine-game trial run. Maatta’s place with the Penguins this season came due to a lower-body injury to Kris Letang during the preseason, but the Finnish defenseman has shown the poise and decision-making of a veteran.
Now that Maatta has cleared the nine-game hurdle, the next step is forty games. If the Penguins send Maatta back to juniors before he is on the roster for forty-games, then the season will not count toward him becoming an unrestricted free agent (UFA). Therefore, if he stays in the NHL past forty-games, he would become an UFA at the age of twenty-five, instead of being a restricted free agent (RFA). Also keep in mind that the Penguins can still send him back to London at any time during the season. Get all of that?
So now that Maatta is staying in Pittsburgh, how does the defense look with Kris Letang coming closer to returning? Perhaps Maatta and Robert Bortuzzo split time? What becomes of Deryk Engelland? Only time or potential injuries will tell.