Pittsburgh Penguins pull off best move of the offseason by extending John Marino

The Pittsburgh Penguins have saved their offseason after signing John Marino to an extension.

Okay, so that might be a bit of a stretch, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have certainly hit it out of the park after giving defenseman John Marino a six-year, $26,400,000 extension.

It carries an Average Annual Value of $4,400,000 and Marino will be a UFA once this deal expires after the 2026-27 season.

Now, some may balk at that AAV and question whether it is a high number for a player who is just coming off his rookie year.

However, if you really delve into the stats and some of the underlying numbers, then you will get a clearer picture of why this was such an importance piece of business to get done by the Penguins.

So, without further ado, let’s delve right in and map out why this could be the best move of the offseason for the Pittsburgh Penguins, before giving it a final grade.

Homegrown Value

Playing on a team that so happens to boast Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin means that you probably don’t get the level of attention you deserve.

That was certainly the case for John Marino who was incredibly good in his rookie year, and his name also got lost among all the hype surrounding the likes of Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar.

Granted, those two rookie defensemen in particular were lights out in 2019-20 and they are the future of the National Hockey League.

However, Marino played at an elite level for the Pittsburgh Penguins and he emerged as a top-four defenseman in just his first year in the majors.

Skating in 56 regular season games, the 23-year-old recorded 26 points (6 G, 20 A) with a plus / minus rating of +17, four power play points (1 G, 3 A), 77 blocked shots, 72 hits and 37 Takeaways while averaging 20:15 of ice time.

Marino also recorded a Point Shares rating of 5.6 along with a CF% of 50.6%, and I mean just look at the chart below to get a perfect illustration of just how dominant the rookie was in a plethora of different areas for the Penguins.

He was an absolute horse on the penalty kill, he was incredibly effective in his own zone and he proved that he could produce offense at a high-level while logging major top-four minutes.

For instance, Marino ranked second among all Pittsburgh blueliners in points (26), while he ranked fourth-best among all rookie defensemen in the NHL, finishing only behind Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox and Cale Makar.

Marino was also one of only seven rookie defensemen in franchise history to record 20 assists and 26 points, and his six-game point streak (1 G, 6 A) between Nov. 16-27, 2019 is tied for the second-longest point streak in Pittsburgh Penguins history by a first-year blueliner.

He boasts plenty of skill as perfectly illustrated by his sublime breakaway goal against the Boston Bruins earlier in the 2019-20 regular season, while he had one assist in four postseason games for the Penguins.

Basically, not only did John Marino emerge as a rising star in 2019-20, but he also showed tantalizing glimpses of morphing into a cornerstone defenseman and, perhaps, a future No. 1 blueliner for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Now, granted, Marino’s body of work is still relatively small so there is always a risk that the defenseman could be a one-year wonder.

John Marino (6)

John Marino #6 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

However, the Penguins are obviously confident that he boasts both the skill-set and intangibles needed to become a top-pairing defenseman in the future, while he is still on the final year of his Entry-Level Contract which carries a cap hit of $925,000.

So, in theory, Marino could already be living up to his new contract by the time it kicks in at the start of the 2021-22 season should he put together an impressive sophomore season in 2020-21.

And Marino’s emergence is a huge win for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who acquired from the 23-year-old from the Edmonton Oilers for a conditional 2021 Sixth-Round Draft pick on July 26, 2019, given that the franchise is light on high-end prospects and they need a long-term replacement for veteran defenseman Kris Letang.

John Marino, although still incredibly early in his NHL career, could be just that for the Pittsburgh Penguins and that’s why this deal was not only so important for General Manager Jim Rutherford to get done, but why it deserves a high final grade:

Pittsburgh Penguins A

After all, it has been a minute since the Penguins have developed a real high-end stud and, if John Marino continues on this rapid upwards trajectory, then it could really set the franchise up for the future.

Overall, this was a smart deal by the Pittsburgh Penguins who are paying John Marino for the player they expect him to develop into and this contract will look a bargain if that indeed transpires, while locking up a potential cornerstone defenseman to a team-friendly deal could give the front office some roster flexibility further down the road.