Another Shoe to Drop for the Penguins?

The Pittsburgh Penguins today traded 25 year old defenseman John Marino to the New Jersey Devils in ex-change for defenseman Ty Smith and a 2023 third-round pick. Pittsburgh moves on from Marino who had 5 years remaining on his contract with a $4.4 million cap hit. Marino is owed $24.65 million in salary over the next five seasons.

The return will be seen by some as light in a lot of circles, but it’s been quite clear since the Jan Rutta signing that Marino’s days were numbered. Pittsburgh signed Rutta to help anchor the second pairing on the right side with a different style of d-man (that’s a discussion for another day if Rutta’s going to be over-extended in that role) and the worst kept secret around the league surrounding the Penguins was the Ron Hextall regime just never saw defenseman John Marino in the same light that the old regime did.

Mario’s name has just been out there for far too many months as Pittsburgh saw a third pairing level defenseman long-term. One team source on Marino said Chad Ruhwedel can do just about anything Marino could do for them and from a cap value standpoint, it made too much sense for the Penguins to go in this direction with more of a futures type return.

Smith, a 22 year old smallish (5/11, 175) left handed defenseman, can play a little. His most attractive attribute is the skill level he has in the puck moving game as the former first round pick (17th overall, 2018) has some tools the Penguins coaching staff can work with. Smith, though, struggled mightily in 21-22 with his decision making and has a ways to go in being a capable level defenseman in his own end, especially against rush situations. In 66 games with the Devils in 2021-2022, Smith had 5 goals and 20 points in 66 games. Smith has appeared in 114 career NHL games, totaling 7 goals, 36 assists for 43 points, including a minus-35 rating.

The Devils by including Smith in this deal shows they see Smith as a broken developing player whose long-term trajectory is more likely to be in the mold of Derrick Pouliot for example, a very similar styled defenseman as Smith was coming into the NHL, than someone who’s going to come close to living up to the billing of a top-20 pick.


— Where this trade will be controversial in some circles is it was always believed if the Penguins moved Marino it would be more of a hockey deal. That’s the direction were often looking until recently.

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— One Marino trade did fall through during draft week that wasn’t between the Penguins and Devils. The deal was believed To read this insider news, subscribe to get “Inside Access”!

— The Penguins who need to add at least one impact forward to the mix, preferably two, essentially cleared $4.4 million in cap space as Smith is not eligible for waivers in 22-23 as Pittsburgh could place him in the minors to start next season. Smith is still 36 NHL games away from being eligible for waivers. For the player individually, this probably wasn’t the best destination as Smith’s viewed as being too good for minors where he needs all the NHL action he can get at this stage in his development. Unfortunately for him, he’s the clear 9th or 10th best defenseman in Pittsburgh’s organization as of right now.

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