The Pittsburgh Penguins and defenseman Olli Maatta avoided restricted free agency Friday, as the 21-year-old blueliner signed a six-year contract extension through 2021-22.
The Pens announced the deal is worth $24.498 million, which breaks down to an average annual value of $4.083 million.
The 2012 first-round pick is enjoying a strong season with six goals and 10 assists in 53 games to go along with a plus-18 rating, which ranks him behind only the Florida Panthers' Brian Campbell and the St. Louis Blues' Colton Parayko among defensemen.
As seen in this graphic, courtesy of Penguins PR, the Finnish star has been among the most productive rearguards from his draft class thus far:
He has bounced back to enjoy perhaps the best season of his career to this point, though, and the Pens subsequently decided to invest heavily in his future.
Maatta is playing first-pairing minutes alongside Kris Letang this season, and if he continues to develop at his current pace, then roughly $4 million per season could look like a bargain in the near future, as pointed out by Craig Custance of ESPN The Magazine:
Love these long-term deals for young defensemen. Maatta deal won't look as good as Klingberg's in Dallas but this is a nice bet by Penguins.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) February 26, 2016
The Pens currently hold the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and while forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin receive much of the credit for the team's success, it is difficult to imagine them in the playoff hunt without Maatta.
Maatta is the definition of an all-around defenseman who excels at both ends of the ice, which makes him the perfect complement for the offensive-minded Letang.
The Penguins have certainly taken notice of that, and it is easy to see why they believe Maatta has a chance to continue his growth into one of the league's top defenders.
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