Detroit Red Wings: Steady play of Olli Maatta warranted contract extension

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On Thursday, the Detroit Red Wings rewarded veteran defenseman Olli Maatta, 28, with a two-year contract extension worth $6 million. It’s a slight raise from his current one-year deal that pays him $2.25 million.

When the Detroit Red Wings signed Maatta this past offseason, it seemed like one of those one-year bridge deals where Yzerman hoped a proven commodity that the bigger-named free agents had perhaps overshadowed would not only help along Detroit’s youthful core but become someone the Red Wings could flip at the deadline for future assets.

Maatta has performed well this season for the Red Wings, albeit quietly, so much so that Yzerman clearly doesn’t want to part with him ahead of the March 3rd NHL Trade Deadline. Maatta gets a much-deserved bump in pay, along with some security for the next couple of seasons. Maatta’s steady presence really allowed partner Filip Hronek to blossom. Hronek’s play exploded while paired with Maatta, and some of his defensive deficiencies were erased by the shrewd play of his partner. Hronek currently sits second on the Red Wings, with 36 points.

Olli Maatta’s steady play warranted a contract extension from the Detroit Red Wings.

Maatta has recorded five goals and 17 points over 49 games for the Red Wings this season—the 28-year-old averages just over 18 minutes of ice time per night while skating to a plus-five rating. Maatta’s Corsi For comes in at 46.8%, while his Relative Corsi For Percentage is 0.4 during even strength situations.

In Maatta’s instance, I believe it comes down to what a potential return would/could be. Suppose Yzerman felt like the return for Maatta would be a mid-level prospect or mid-round draft selection. In that case, it’s evident that keeping him around impacts the Red Wings more positively than trading him as a rental for something of lesser value. It also helps that Maatta was willing to stay in Detroit for a fair price. Take Tyler Bertuzzi, who may be packing his bags if the two sides cannot agree on an extension. Bertuzzi will fetch an impactful return for the Red Wings and is far too talented to let walk as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

In the social media-driven world, fans were quick to jump to conclusions upon seeing the Maatta extension. Some fans suggested that pending free agent Jake Walman might be on the trade block, knowing Ben Chiarot, Maatta, and top prospect Simon Edvinsson are all left-handed. Walman might be on the block, but there is no reason why Yzerman won’t bring him back. Walman has played exceptionally well this season paired with Moritz Seider.

Having four left-handed defensemen in the top six isn’t that rare. For years, Detroit’s second pairing was Nicklas Kronwall and Brad Stuart, both lefties. Stuart played the right side and played it well. I wouldn’t rule out someone like Chiarot or even Maatta playing the right side to start next season paired with Edvinsson (if Walman is re-signed). You’d be looking at a first pairing of Walman/Seider, a second group of Maatta/Hronek, and a third pairing of Edvinsson/Chiarot.

Chiarot has become a scapegoat to many Red Wings fans, but in the right situation, he wouldn’t be exposed nearly as often as it seems he is this season. Suppose Chiarot is used as a bottom-three defender playing against middle-to-bottom six forwards; he can work as a top penalty killer and be a valuable, reliable depth asset to the Red Wings.

With Maatta re-signed, hopefully, Yzerman is in an extension mood, and a new contract for captain Dylan Larkin isn’t too far behind.

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