Well when I last signed off here, I had gone from disillusioned over the Johnny Gaudreau mess to appeased (for lack of a better word) by a fortuitous late-night signing of Ondrej Palat, and now pleasantly surprised today by Fitz’s latest move to improve the blueline – trading Ty Smith and a third-rounder for 25-year old RHD John Marino. If you knew nothing about Marino before the trade, that makes two of us but apparently he’s a very solid defensive defenseman who can chip in the occasional point here and there – and is also signed for the next five years at a reasonable $4.4 million cap hit.
It was surprising mainly from the standpoint of this trade happening between two division teams – not to mention Marino being dealt one year into a six-year contract, although more of Pittsburgh’s intent became clearer later on in the day when they traded for Jeff Petry from Montreal, both getting him and saving some money by shedding the contracts of Marino and Mike Matheson (dealt to Montreal for Petry) as a result of taking back Smith – the one-time first-round pick of the Devils. It wasn’t totally surprising that Fitz made a move like this to improve the D though, especially if you listened to his post-FA interview where when asked what else he’d like to do this offseason, Fitzy volunteered that he was looking to address the D.
Given the fact the Devils already had six D under contract for next year – including recent signing Brendan Smith – and some other younger guys possibly pushing for a spot on the back pairing, it seemed more obvious after Fitz’s words that at least one of the signed D was going to be on the move. So far the answer to that is Smith, who after a promising rookie season had a clear sophomore slump last year. He certainly has talent offensively but with their highest-paid player (Dougie Hamilton) and their best prospect (Luke Hughes) both fully capable of adding offense to the D, it seemed less likely that Smith would be a long-term part of the solution after last season.
I’m not sure Fitz is done yet with his D makeover, since both Damon Severson and Ryan Graves are on the last year of their contracts, they would be the most likely candidates to be moved next – either in the offseason or at the deadline. Given that Marino – a RHD – is signed for a decent chunk of change at term, along with Hamilton and recent #2 overall pick Simon Nemec being RHD’s, it also makes it less likely Severson is going to be around past this year. While I’ve had my issues with Severson as a player, he’s always been a good Devil under some trying circumstances and if we’re coming to a crossroads here I wish him (as well as Ty) luck in their future endeavors.
I owe Fitzy a mea culpa though, or at least a nod of approval…I wanted him to be more proactive a few days ago, he certainly has been that over the last week plus – both in terms of players acquired as well as players we’ve been willing to move on from as this franchise hopefully starts to make a turn back toward the light next year.