Devils improve defense by acquiring Marino from Pens for Ty Smith and third round pick


The Devils upgraded their defense today by adding a proven veteran in a smart deal. In a move that should improve their blue line, they acquired John Marino from the Pens in exchange for Ty Smith and a 2023 third round pick.

Update: Hasan beat me to it. Here’s what he had to say on the Devils adding Marino from the Penguins. You can read the rest of my thoughts below.

As usual, hockey insider Kevin Weekes had the breaking news from a random location. Weekes has become a trusted source. He has plenty of contacts in the league. I’d imagine a little birdie named Martin Brodeur told him about the trade.

Even if you’re a fan of the team who isn’t happy that Johnny Gaudreau passed up coming home for his sudden love of Columbus, GM Tom Fitzgerald has quietly improved the roster. He still added proven top six forward Ondrej Palat and toughened up the D with veteran Brendan Smith.

In being able to snatch up Marino from Pittsburgh, who decided he was expendable due to later adding Jeff Petry from the Habs for Mike Matheson, Fitzgerald took advantage. The 25-year old Marino is a solid puck moving defenseman who has good possession statistics. Signed for another five years at a fair cap hit of $4.4 million, he’s a quality get.

This past season, Marino had a goal and a career high 24 assists for 25 points over 81 contests with the Pens. He averaged 20:38 of ice time and was a plus-eight with 43 takeaways and 35 giveaways. He also blocked 88 shots and had 73 hits.

Compared to P.K. Subban, who was up and down in three seasons after coming over from Nashville, Marino is a younger and better player. This should solidify a defense that wasn’t exactly a team strength.

In adding Marino to a blue line that features Dougie Hamilton, Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, Jonas Siegenthaler and Smith, they suddenly have better balance. After signing 2022 number two pick Simon Nemec to an entry-level contract, it’s possible that he could be part of their defense in ’22-23. If that’s the case, then they have Brendan Smith as the extra. A marked improvement from what they had.

Ty Smith was once a highly thought of young defenseman in the Devils organization. Selected 17th in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft, the 22-year old really struggled defensively in his second season.

Perhaps that was enough for Fitzgerald to decide to move on from a young player with potential who probably needs a scenery change. He’ll get it in Pittsburgh.

After posting two goals and 21 assists for 23 points in 48 games during the shortened season of ’20-21, Smith registered five goals with 15 assists for 20 points in 66 games in ’21-22. However, he finished a minus-26 with 40 giveaways compared to only 13 takeaways.

As Hasan noted during the season, Smith made some costly gaffes that led to goals against. Although they never sent him down, he was a healthy scratch in some games due to the inconsistency. Maybe they should’ve had Smith play in the AHL.

There is potential. I guess it’ll all depend on how he’s handled by Pens coach Mike Sullivan. He turned Matheson around. Now, he will play in Montreal after they moved Petry to Pittsburgh in another deal to makeover their blue line.

It’s interesting that the Devils and Pens did business. The last such trade between the old Patrick Division rivals was when the Penguins sent Beau Bennett to the Devs for a third round pick (Connor Hall) on June 25, 2016. Bennett lasted a season going 8-11-19 in 65 games. He only played five more NHL games for St. Louis.

Are the Devils a better team now? Having added Vitek Vanecek to compete in net with Mackenzie Blackwood for the number one job, I’d say unequivocally yes.

They still must re-sign Jesper Bratt to a big contract. With still $12.26 million left on the cap, they’re in good shape. That includes RFA’s Miles Wood, Jesper Boqvist and Fabian Zetterlund.

Both Severson and Graves enter the final years of their contracts. With Kevin Bahl also a possibility on the roster, it’s possible Fitzgerald isn’t done dealing. I’m sure Hasan will have more on their situation as the off-season continues.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of Hudson administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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