Olli Maatta signs six-year contract extension with Penguins
February 26, 2016 8:59 PM
Defenseman Olli Maatta signed a six-year contract extension with the Penguins today.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Olli Maatta beat cancer in the fall of 2014.
Then, he recovered from major shoulder surgery.
Now, at age 21, he has set his sights on winning a Stanley Cup with the Penguins, who Friday locked him down to a long-term contract.
The six-year, $24 million extension, which begins next season, carries an annual salary-cap hit of $4.083 million and includes a limited no-trade clause that kicks in later in the deal.
“My mindset is I want to be a big part of this team,” said Maatta, who was due to become a restricted free agent this summer. “I want to produce out there. I want to be able to play a big role. That’s my goal. That’s what I work toward every day.”
Maatta, a first-round draft pick in 2012, has been among the team’s finest young defensemen since he burst onto the scene in his rookie season (2013-14). He also is a player general manager Jim Rutherford had been trying to sign long term for some time.
“He’s an important part to our defense,” Rutherford said. “He’s just a really well-rounded player kind of ahead of his time. We just felt it was important to give him the security and tie him up.”
Despite his baby face, Maatta routinely is praised for his veteran decision-making on the ice and maturity off it.
“He seemed to have that pro mindset right away. He fit in really well. He came to work every day and just did what was asked,” Sidney Crosby said. “He was given a lot of responsibility at a young age. We had a lot of injuries that year. He was thrown into pretty quickly. I think that’s something that’s probably helped him out a lot, too.”
“It’s great to see young guys achieve like what he’s doing. He’s a [heck] of a player, a very smart defenseman and his decision-making out there is like a veteran,” veteran defenseman Trevor Daley said.
In October 2014, Maatta learned some bad news. He was just 20 and thousands of miles from his native Finland and needed surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his thyroid.
After successful surgery, he returned to the ice less than two weeks later.
By mid-January, though, he was out again with a shoulder injury that required a second surgery in less than eight months. That ended his season.
“I don’t even think of it anymore,” Maatta said. “I’m just happy to be back on the ice, and I feel great playing out there.”
Rutherford said the organization has no medical concerns regarding Maatta and was impressed with how he handled such a difficult season last year.
“He’s a guy that can handle adversity. He just is a special guy,” Rutherford said. “He’s mature, he’s had a lot to deal with at a young age, and it doesn’t seem that anything fazes him.”
Maatta has been paired with veteran Kris Letang for the past several months. Though he is more than capable of joining the rush, he often provides the safety net for Letang, who said Friday he foresees a long partnership ahead.
“We could have a chance to build on something that we have going right now. It would be cool,” Letang said. “Olli is a guy that jumps in the rush. I think it’s just the way we’ve been able to read each other.”
Coach Mike Sullivan said Maatta is reliable in a variety of key situations on the ice and is strong in front of the net.
“It’s not so much about knocking people around because in today’s game that’s a penalty,” Sullivan said. “You have to find strategies where you allow your goaltender to see the puck, establish body position and tie up sticks so that you can battle on a rebound and not allow a deflection. … I think Olli’s hockey sense and the fact that he’s a strong kid allows him to be pretty good in that area of the rink.
“I think it’s great for Pittsburgh’s organization. I think it’s great for Olli. Hopefully, he will get a lot of confidence out of it because he’ll understand how this organization values him and how good of a player we think he is.”
Jenn Menendez: email@example.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.
Who: Penguins vs. Winnipeg Jets.
When, where: 3:08 p.m. today, Consol Energy Center.
Noteworthy: The Penguins are slated to get C Evgeni Malkin and C Nick Bonino back today. … The power play has struggled in Malkin’s absence, going just 1 for 24 in that stretch. … The Jets traded captain Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday in a multi-player deal. … The Jets beat the Penguins, 1-0, Dec. 27 in their previous meeting. … D Kris Letang had a career-high five assists against Winnipeg Jan. 27, 2015.
Did you know? The Penguins are 5-0 at home against the Jets since the team moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011.
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