The Chicago Blackhawks have traded defenceman Olli Maatta to the Los Angeles Kings for forward Brad Morrison. The Blackhawks have also retained $750,108 of his $4.083 million cap hit as part of the deal.
Maatta played 65 games and posted 4 goals and 17 points for the Blackhawks after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins last offseason for Dominik Kahun. He had played his entire career before that in the Steel City before coming to the Windy City for only one season.
The 26-year-old has two more years left on his contract, originally signed with the Penguins in 2016, that carries a $4.083 million cap hit. As mentioned before, the Blackhawks will retain $750,108 for the life of the deal. With how little depth the Kings have on their blueline, Maatta will slot behind Drew Doughty as their second defenceman and their second-highest-paid one as well.
The Kings will most likely be active in the free-agent market to shore up their defence, but as of now, Maatta stands to inherit a lot of minutes on both the power play and penalty kill on a very young blueline. After Doughty at 30 years of age, everyone is under 26-years-old. The rebuild is definitely on for the Kings, who will probably land a top-center in Tim Stutzle or Quinton Byfield on Tuesday.
Blackhawks Shed Salary
The Blackhawks made this trade for one reason alone, to clear cap space. Instead of going the route of a buyout for Maatta, they decided to find a team with room to take his salary. They did need to retain a small amount of his contract but ultimately cleared $3.3 million for future use.
Presumably, the Blackhawks will be using the freed up space to re-sign some of their key free agents in goaltender Corey Crawford and Calder Trophy nominee Dominik Kubalik. They also have Dylan Strome, Drake Caggiula, and Slater Koekkoek to sign as well.
The Blackhawks did acquire another prospect in Brad Morrison who played in the ECHL with the Fort Wayne Komets during the 2019-20 season. He finished the campaign with 6 goals and 19 points in 17 games.
Morrison was originally a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers in 2015 but was left unsigned. He was picked up by the Kings in 2018 and has spent time in the AHL with the Ontario Reign and in the ECHL with the Komets ever since. He has some offensive upside, but at 23-years-old, he’s probably looking like a fringe NHLer or career AHL player at this point.
The primary reason for this trade was to clear salary. Morrison was a throw-in that may or may not pan out for the Blackhawks in the end. Now the real work begins as general manager Stan Bowman attempts to re-sign a plethora of key free agents for next season.