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Maatta plays game No. 9, Pens undecided if they’ll keep him

Oct 21, 2013, 9:12 PM EDT

OlliMaatta Getty Images

Monday night’s “Battle of Coal Harbour” between Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon had another intriguing storyline as well.

Olli Maatta, Pittsburgh’s 19-year-old rookie defenseman, suited up for tonight’s Pens-Avs game — his ninth of the season. That means the club now has a difficult decision ahead: Keep Maatta in the NHL, using up a year of his entry-level deal in the process, or send him back to his junior club in OHL London and “save” a year of his deal.

According to a report in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, that decision had already been made. The Trib cited “multiple sources” who claimed Maatta would indeed stick with the Pens for the year but, prior to putting Maatta on the lineup card tonight, Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma refuted the claim.

“It’s not accurate to my knowledge that a decision has been made on Maatta to this point,” Bylsma said. “He’ll be playing in his ninth game tonight. Given the fact that we may be getting healthy in the next game or two, that would end up leaving us with eight defensemen.

“We’ll see how that plays out.”

Maatta has certainly done enough to warrant a spot on the Pens. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound rearguard had three points in eight games coming into tonight, averaging nearly 15 minutes per, thriving with the likes of defenseman Kris Letang sidelined due to injury.

Through two periods of tonight’s game vs. Colorado, Maatta had 9:22 TOI with two shots on goal.

  1. killerpgh - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    There 2 ways this plays out. 1) what’s best for Maatta’s long term interest – playing now in the NHL or 2) what’s best to the Penguins long term interest – sending him back down and controlling his rights for an extra year. The kid play. Bylsma usually doesn’t give rookies/younger players a chance to play and gain experience. He has giving Maatta a chance tho. I’m not sure how this will play out, but if he stays a trade needs to be done soon so the Penguins can stay under the 23 man roster limit. Maatta is the only defenseman currently of the NHL roster that wouldn’t have to go through waivers.

  2. pitpenguinsrulez - Oct 21, 2013 at 10:31 PM

    I’d like to see him stay but it’s so hard to say. Going to be pretty tough…hopefully he stays and we move either Despres, Engo, or Niskanen. Personally Despres has been wasted here. He’d have a better chance to showcase his skills elsewhere. Tho we have to search for a backup goalie.

  3. joey4id - Oct 22, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    He won’t play much when Letang returns, so they should return him to his team, he still has a few kinks to workout and needs to get a little more strength in his body.

    • jpelle82 - Oct 22, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      maatta should play over bortuzzo in my opinion when letang comes back. did you hear orpik’s interview before the game? he said maatta is the hardest working kid he’s ever played with and he said if its based on his play on the ice then there’s no way he’s going anywhere.

      • joey4id - Oct 22, 2013 at 11:07 AM

        If you compare Maarta to Bortuzzo when Bortuzzo first started I would agree that Maatta looks better. However, Bortuzzo’s game is currently more polished and he adds an element of toughness that Maataa at 19 does not, and should not have to. I would prefer seeing te kid grow a little playing at his weight class so to speak. I agree that he will be a more finisse d man than Bortuzzo, but not now.

  4. csilojohnson - Oct 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Keep in mind when Bennet and Neal come back i dont think we will see Eng playing forward. I say send him back. Not based on performance at all. Pens are spilling over with depth on D. Has Simon even been called up yet this year?

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