Stan Bowman and the Chicago Blackhawks have spent the last few weeks actively pursuing a trade for a defenseman. It comes as no surprise, as the Blackhawks allowed the second-most goals in the league last season. With mostly the same defensive unit returning for this upcoming season, it would have been a mistake for the front office to sit back and expect different results.
The Blackhawks made their first significant offseason move by trading forward Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round pick to Pittsburgh for defenseman Olli Maatta. Maatta, 24, is a left-handed defenseman that has won two Stanley Cups in his short career. He has three more years left on his current contract with a $4.083M cap hit.
Olli Maatta is a top-six caliber defenseman that is reliable in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks needed to address the penalty kill after being historically bad last season, so the trade makes a lot of sense. A former first-round pick in 2012, Maatta possesses a high hockey IQ and is positionally sound. He’s certainly an upgrade defensively for the Blackhawks. He’s also surprisingly capable of creating plays in the offensive zone. Olli Maatta may not be the top-pairing defenseman many thought the Blackhawks were going to pursue, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The 6’2″, 205 lb Finnish defenseman had an up and down career with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was a middle-tier defenseman during the Penguins back-to-back cup runs, averaging around 18-20 minutes per game. His best season came in 2017-18 when he registered 29 points, had career-high possession numbers, and played in all 82 games.
Last season wasn’t nearly as good to Maatta, as he battled injuries and eventually was scratched for three of the Penguins four playoff games. Maatta struggled to keep up with the fast pace due to multiple surgeries and ailments. His speed is without a doubt his biggest weakness, and according to multiple reports, it is a big weakness. Maatta has been dubbed as one of the slowest defensemen in the entire league. It’s concerning that he’s so remarkably slow at just 24 years old. Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Olli Maatta are hoping for different results in the 2019-20 season.
Goodbye Dominik Kahun
Despite a strong rookie season from Dominik Kahun (13G, 24A in 82 games), the Czech forward became expendable with the signings of Dominik Kubalik and Anton Wedin. The Blackhawks were desperate for defensive help and were willing to part ways with one of their middle-six forwards. Kahun was one of the easier forwards to move due to his $925,000 cap hit.
While Kahun wasn’t stupendous last year, he showed the potential to become a solid two-way player one day. He was a versatile forward that could be slotted up and down the lineup. Kahun may never light up the stat sheet offensively, but he’s a young and valuable player that can take on multiple roles. The Blackhawks paid a hefty price to acquire Maatta, but it was a necessary measure to try and improve the defense. If Olli Maatta proves to be another slow and overpaid defenseman for the Blackhawks, this could be one of the last trades Stan Bowman makes as GM.
For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author (@JackBushman2) on Twitter. Make sure to check out the author’s podcast, Talkin’ Hawkey, which can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Twitter (@TalkHawkey).