Trade: Blackhawks clear $3M+ in cap space, send Olli Maatta to Kings

Trade: Blackhawks clear cap space, send Olli Maatta to Kings
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The Blackhawks sent defenseman Olli Maatta to the Kings in a trade that clears up more than $3 million in cap space for Chicago. Forward Brad Morrison goes to the Blackhawks in this trade.

Maatta, 26, carries a $4.083M cap hit through 2021-22. The Blackhawks confirmed that they retained $750K of Maatta’s salary in the deal, while also noting Morrison’s $743,333 cap hit for 2020-21. Morrison, 23, hasn’t ever played in an NHL game, so it’s not clear if he’ll see any action with the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks trade Olli Maatta to Kings, open space (possibly for Crawford?)

Kings receive: Olli Maatta, 26, $3.33M cap hit after salary retention (through 2021-22).

Blackhawks receive: Morrison, retain $750K of Maatta’s salary through 2021-22.

Following this trade, the Blackhawks now have about $11.16M in cap space (with 16 roster spots covered), according to Cap Friendly.

That’s significant, as the Blackhawks face some free agent conundrums.

Most prominently, 35-year-old cornerstone goalie Corey Crawford is a pending unrestricted free agent. On one hand, his age and (quite recent) injury concerns must be considered. On the other hand, Crawford quietly played fantastic hockey for an often-overmatched Blackhawks defense that may get incrementally shabbier without Maatta.

Even if Crawford walks, the Blackhawks will be looking for a goalie (sorry, penciled-in backup Malcolm Subban).

Beyond that, the Blackhawks face some RFA situations. Dylan Strome and Dominik Kubalik both present interesting conundrums, value-wise. Drake Caggiula is also an RFA forward.

Meanwhile, this move is mildly puzzling from the Kings’ perspective. On one hand, Maatta gives the Kings another palatable defenseman. For all Los Angeles’ struggles, they played solid defense in 2020-21.

Still, it sure seems like the Kings’ best plan is to focus mainly on the future. Maatta isn’t ancient at 26, but if this rebuild takes a while, is he going to move the needle much? By the time they progress, he may be past his prime.

(Personally, I’d think the Kings would be better off leveraging cap space to gain futures, like the Red Wings did by trading for Marc Staal.)

Then again, maybe the Kings want to gain some defense now, and then trade Maatta for picks later?

Either way, this saves a nice chunk of change for the Blackhawks. We may get more of an idea about how they’ll use that money with moves surrounding the 2020 NHL Draft.

Speaking of the Draft …

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.