The Devils and Penguins have swapped defensemen as New Jersey has acquired defenseman John Marino from Pittsburgh in exchange for blueliner Ty Smith and a 2023 third-round pick. Both teams have announced the swap. Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald released the following statement:
John is a competitive, highly mobile defenseman who strengthens our back end. He takes pride in his game away from the puck and his puck management and ability to transition play will fit in nicely with our style and the strengths of our forward group. This is another move focused on improving our club today, while also providing certainty and stability for roster flexibility as we continue to build.
The 25-year-old Marino made an immediate impact in his rookie season back in 2019-20, recording 26 points in 56 games. Pittsburgh had acquired his rights from Edmonton in the 2019 offseason for a sixth-round pick and that type of immediate return was quite impressive. So much so, in fact, that then-GM Jim Rutherford handed Marino a six-year, $26.4MM contract back in January of 2021, a deal that still has five years remaining.
However, things didn’t go as well for Marino and the Penguins since then. He struggled in the pandemic-shortened 2020-21 campaign before rebounding a little bit last season, recording a goal and 24 assists in 81 games while still logging over 20 minutes a night, a number that jumped to over 23 minutes per contest in their first-round playoff loss to the Rangers.
In Marino, New Jersey gets a defender that is capable of playing top-four minutes now as evidenced by the fact that he has averaged over 20 minutes per contest over each of his three NHL seasons. A right-shot rearguard, Marino also gives them some insurance on the right side with Damon Severson a year away from unrestricted free agency. If he departs next summer, Marino could simply take Severson’s spot behind Dougie Hamilton on their depth chart which is likely the stability for roster flexibility that Fitzgerald spoke of in his statement.
As for Smith, the 22-year-old was a first-round pick of the Devils back in 2018 (17th overall) and made a very strong first impression in his rookie year in 2020-21 when he picked up 23 points in 48 games while averaging over 20 minutes a game himself. However, things certainly did not go well last season as his production dropped to 20 points in 66 contests while his defensive metrics took a tumble. Nevertheless, he’s certainly young enough to rebound not unlike Marino did last season.
While Smith is an intriguing addition, the key to the trade for Pittsburgh might very well be the financial flexibility gained. Smith still has a year to go on his entry-level deal, one that carries a cap hit of just $863K plus an additional $400K in performance bonuses. Compared to Marino’s $4.4MM cap charge, Pittsburgh has freed up over $3.5MM in cap space for next season (not including the bonuses). That money is basically all of the cap space they have left which they will need in order to re-sign RFA winger Kasperi Kapanen this summer.
It’s also worth noting that Pittsburgh now has a bit of a logjam on the left side of their back end with Smith joining lefties Brian Dumoulin, Michael Matheson, and Marcus Pettersson. The Penguins have been known to be shopping Pettersson in the past and this type of move could very well intensify the desire to get a trade done, especially if they can free up a little more cap flexibility in the process.
As for New Jersey’s offseason, there is still a lot of work to be done. Per CapFriendly, the Devils have just under $13MM in cap space left following this trade with a big chunk of that set to go to RFA winger Jesper Bratt. Forwards Miles Wood and Jesper Boqvist also need new deals as does recent acquisition Vitek Vanecek; the netminder is in his final year of RFA eligibility and will be looking at a significant raise after making the league minimum the last three years. As a result, their heavy lifting in terms of adding to their roster may be finished with the focus now turning to re-signing their RFAs.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Nice move by NJ.
Better move by Pitt
Wow that was unexpected.
Unexpected? Not really. There’s been talk of moving Marino for some time now. And this bumps their cap space back over $6MM, which certainly gives them enough to re-sign Kapanen and gives them a shot at keeping Rodrigues or Heinen. It’s a sound move.
yes roll out the exact same lineup that was ineffective this past post season
That lineup skated circles around the Rangers.
It took BOTH of having an AHL goalie in net AND Crosby getting hurt or else they win in 5.
For Devils fans, what kind of players are the Penguins getting? I don’t know much about Ty Smith…
Goku the All Knowing
looks like Pens are adding assets to make a move for JT Miller or a big winger
The Canucks coveted Marino.
They’d be silly to acquire LD with Hughes and OEL there.
All offense defense was a struggle rookie year
after rookie year and paired with pk took a literal nose dive defensively and in sheltered minutes points were a struggle too.
Good move for both of them, actually. Marino isn’t a bad player. Just probably not worth his contract. That contract is a problem for the Penguins who are tight on cap space. NJ can easily take him on while still improving their defense.
Will be interesting to see Ty Smith’s progession. I liked him a lot in his rookie season. But this season was rather disappointing.
In a vacuum, this is an OK move, I guess…a cheaper former first round pick who showed some things before getting passed up on the depth chart and a 3rd for a guy you have on the block to clear cap.
BUT…we still have 9 NHL defenseman (unless they are sending Smith to WBS) and still need a LW, so I think we are still making another trade. Hard to judge yet.
Also, Smith seems to profile a LOT like POJ. Not sure you need a bunch of that same type of player on your blue line.
Wish Ottawa would have been in on him. Probably would have been the cheapest of the top 4 RHD’s that are possibly available to acquire.
Did Nino Niederreiter get stuck with no chair when the music stopped? Or does he and every other unsigned free agent have a secret handshake deal with Lou Lamorello that will be announced in mid-August?
If his price drops enough, Nino on a line with Geno (aside from the rhyme thing which makes me want to forget the whole idea) and Rakell would be pretty great.
Guentzel Crosby Rust
Nino Geno Rakell
Zucker Carter Kapanen
I could also see Milano as a cheap dice roll to play with Geno, as well, but that line would need to be very very sheltered.
can the pens convince dino ciccarelli to join the team.
the Dino, Geno, Nino line
I know most fans bases hated Dino. No one hated Dino more than Pens fans.
Jersey Is building a nice young talented group, Fitzgerald Is on the ball! Now all they need Is a coach.
This seems curious