NHL trades: Penguins and Devils trade John Marino and Ty Smith in win-win deal

The exchange

Devils get: Defender John Marino

Penguins get: Defenseman Ty Smith and a 2023 third-round pick

Corey Pronman: Ty Smith hasn’t made a step forward this season as a player, but remains a promising young defender. He’s a very smart puck thrower with legitimate offensive creativity. He is a strong skater with good speed and better edge work who can escape pressure at a high level. But Smith is an undersized defender and hasn’t defended well as a pro. He may not be the high-end defender some scouts would have been when he was a junior, but I could see an offensively-inclined second pair defender at his peak.

John Marino is a great mobile defender who brought a lot more offense as a pro than I would have expected. He’s definitely more of a stopper than a skill type, but he has good underhand hockey sense and can make tough plays. He’s not as good as the hype machine for him in his NHL rookie season portrayed him to be, but he’s a very solid top-four defenseman who can complement the high-end skills of Dougie Hamilton, Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec over the coming years.

I know it’s corny, but I like this deal for both teams. New Jersey gets a good veteran defenseman to help turn the corner as a franchise; Pittsburgh is freeing up cap space and bringing a rare talented young player into the organization, plus they’ve added a high draft pick instead of trading one, which is brand new.

New Jersey Devils: B+
Pittsburgh Penguins: B+

Sean Gentille: The logic on both sides here is pretty simple: The Devils get the right-handed defenseman they badly needed, and the Penguins opened up more than $3 million in cap space while adding a higher player.

Where it gets a little awkward for Pittsburgh: The departure of Marino — who’s been fine the past two seasons but hasn’t delivered on the promise he showed as a rookie — cleared a (newly created) traffic jam on the side right but gives them five NHL-caliber guys left. They now have Brian Doumilin, Mike Matheson, Marcus Pettersson, Smith and Pierre-Olivier Joseph in that location. The idea, especially recently, was that they would send in one of the left-sided remnants for cap relief and, potentially, a striker.

Of course, that’s not how it happened. Ron Hextall, if he chooses, can always try to move Pettersson. It’s not a ceiling requirement, but it is an option. If that were to happen, Joseph and Smith would be vying for playing time on the bottom pair – and it’s hard to imagine either of them not being in the lineup come November. In the meantime, Hextall can use this space on a deep forward.

Smith is coming off a horrible second season, but has shown promise as a rookie who moves the puck and attacks first. Assistant coach Todd Reirden helped Matheson develop similar skills, and the idea – no doubt – is that he would have a similar effect on Smith. That advantage, combined with the cap space, makes it a smart deal for the Penguins, who set it up by signing right-side option, top-four Jan Rutta on day one of free agency. .

Marino, meanwhile, is a cost-contained guy who is worth his AAV, even if he continues to stagnate. He will round out the rest of the Devils core.

It’s a good deal for both parties today, and the ratings reflect that. Ultimately, depending on what happens with Smith, it could swing hard either way. Pittsburgh doesn’t get an A because of this risk; New Jersey doesn’t have one because of Marino’s stagnation.

New Jersey Devils: B+
Pittsburgh Penguins: B+

Shayna Goldman: It’s an interesting game featuring two young defenders and I… actually think I like this deal on both sides.

From the Devils’ perspective, they were considering moving Ty Smith at the deadline and obviously waited for a deal like this to materialize. In his rookie year he showed flashes of attack, although his play in his own zone was a bit suspect – but he was an inexperienced player on a very bad team. Last season, Dougie Hamilton shook the blue line as the best offensive defenseman, which moved Smith down the depth chart but also improved his competitive quality. His production went down as a result (and not just because of his reduced ice time on the power play), as did his game in transition. New Jersey risked leaving him too soon, but for John Marino’s return, it makes a lot of sense.

Marino isn’t as attacking, which is good considering their group of forwards and other defenders who can pick up the pace of play, including prospects Luke Hughes and Simon Nemec, who will soon be in the game. But he can still move the puck, is strong in his own end and can absorb tougher minutes, which makes this team stronger. New Jersey was able to take advantage of the cap space to improve its blue line, it seems.

For the Penguins, this compensation decision carries even more risk than their trade partner. Marino was probably the easiest contract for them to move to defense, and it’s possible that management felt he hadn’t lived up to the expectations he set for himself with such a good start to his career in the NHL. Smith isn’t as established and has a few gaps in his game, plus he’s just had a terrible season. But there’s a ton of upside if they can help him channel that potential and show more than just glimpses of his skills. And under Mike Sullivan and in the Penguins system, there’s a very good chance of that happening. This uncertainty is why the return of a third round helps whether they actually use it or return it for other assets as they continue to try to extend their cut window.

New Jersey Devils: A-
Pittsburgh Penguins: B+

(Photo by John Marino: Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images)

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