On Wednesday afternoon, NHL insider Darren Dreger of TSN reported that the Red Wings had signed free agent defenseman Olli Maatta to a one-year contract worth $2.25 million.
Maatta is an interesting case study. Once viewed as a bonafide top-four defenseman in Pittsburgh, Maatta started to struggle, partly due to injury, and was traded to Chicago towards the end of his tenure.
The 27-year-old has spent the last two seasons playing for the Los Angeles Kings and has found success playing in a structured defensive system under head coach Todd McClellan. During the regular season, Maatta was primarily paired with Matt Roy or Jordan Spence; each pairing finished with an above 50% Expected Goals percentage, according to MoneyPuck.
As the 2021-22 season wore on, Maatta leaned heavily as the Kings were missing Drew Doughty and Alex Edler for long stretches this season. The Red Wings could use a reliable mobile puck-mover on the backend, and Maatta fits that bill. This season in 66 games played, Maatta scored one goal and added seven assists, averaging over 18 minutes a night.
Maatta addresses an immediate need with only Jordan Oesterle under contract on the left side of the Red Wings defense. Steve Yzerman made it clear at the end of last season that the Red Wings’ overall team defense needed to improve, and Maatta looks like a player that can certainly help with that. He made his NHL debut at 19, and with Detroit’s top prospect Simon Edvinsson likely making the jump to the NHL this season at the same age, Maatta could be a mentor on the left side.