Pittsburgh Penguins Make Changes on Defence

John Marino, Pittsburgh Penguins Defence
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Today, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they have traded defensemen John Marino to the New Jersey Devils for Ty Smith and a third-round draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. The team made the announcement on their twitter account. It was the first of several moves reshaping the Pittsburgh Penguins defence.

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Pittsburgh Penguins Change Up Defence Corps

During the 2021-2022 regular season, defenceman Ty Smith scored five goals and 15 assists, with 20 total points in 66 games played. While his plus/minus was a disaster, the advanced stats show he was a bit unlucky as well. His Corsi-For was 51.4 percent and he had a relative Corsi of +1. This was a regression from his rookie numbers of 58.8% and +11.7. However, he’s still young as he was drafted by the Devils 17th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft. There is still a lot of time to see how Smith pans out. Although it needs to be said that this return might have some fans scratching their heads.

Marino has regressed from his 2019-2020 rookie season. During that season, Marino scored six goals and 20 assists for 26 total points. With a plus/minus of +17, a Corsi-For of 47.9% and a relative Corsi of -5.0.  he had proven to be a strong player at both ends of the ice with a ton of potential.  Last season Marino played 81 regular season games, tallied 25 points with a plus/minus of +1, Corsi-for of 48.3 percent and a relative Corsi of -5.8. He only scored two goals in his last 118 games with the Penguins and play struggled in the offensive zone. Ty Smith is in his 3rd and final year on his entry-level deal, he will be a restricted free agent after this coming season.

Another return on this trade is New Jersey’s 3rd round draft pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.

What This Means for the Pittsburgh Penguins Defence

On the surface, this return for a young and talented defenseman like Marino is less than ideal. The bright side of this trade is that it does wipe $3.5 million off the books for the Penguins. This frees cap space for general manager Ron Hextall to possibly make another move. The Penguins still have nine defensemen on the roster which keeps the door open for speculation as to what Hextall does with these cap savings.

With nine defensemen still on their roster, it continues to be rumoured that they are looking to trade another to strengthen their forward depth. We will see in the passing weeks how that rumour ages. But those are just rumours and the only thing we know for sure is that there are a lot of question marks with this trade. Ty Smith is still very young with a decent amount of potential, the same goes for the future 2023 NHL draft pick. There is definitely a ton of room for improvement for the defensemen. However, one can’t help but wonder what the Penguins front office might have up their sleeve going forward.

Looking to the Future

The Penguins also announced on Saturday that they have signed their first-round pick, Owen Pickering, to a three-year entry-level contract. The Penguins drafted Pickering with the 21st pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

While Pickering will not play on the Pittsburgh Penguins defence for a few years, he’s a potential top-four defenceman. LWOS’ Ben Kerr said the following in his scouting report: ”

“Pickering has an outstanding shot. He generates a ton of power on his slapshot and one-timer. Pickering can adjust well if the pass is a little bit off, taking a slight half step to his right or left and still getting his one-timer off. He also does a really good job of keeping his shot low and on the net. This allows his teammates to create screens, get deflections, and go for rebounds off the goalie’s pads. Pickering also does a good job of moving laterally and walking the line to open up shooting lanes. He also has a good wrist shot and will use that off the rush. He is also willing to skate down to the top of the circle in order to get his shot off. It is powerful and accurate. Pickering also has a quick release which can confuse goaltenders.”