Extending John Marino is a great move for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As the late Jerry Stiller said while playing Frank Costanza in Season 8, Episode 6 of Seinfeld, “I’m back, baby!”
After a terrific 15 week internship with the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, I am excited to return to writing about the Penguins on-ice product from an analytical and objective perspective.
There have not any real surprises or huge news out of Penguins training camp. The roster and lines consist of players that we expected to see. As a result, we are going to analyze the biggest move of the offseason for Pittsburgh.
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Just over a week ago, the Penguins inked John Marino to a six-year, $26.4 million contract extension. The contract has an AAV of 4.4 million dollars. The contract will begin in the 2021-22 season and conclude at the end of the 2026-27 campaign. Marino is currently in the final season of his entry-level contract.
Marino is a pivotal piece to the Penguins’ present and future. After being acquired from Edmonton in June of 2019 for a conditional sixth-round pick(!), Marino made the team out of training camp and never looked back.
Using Evolving Hockey’s Goals Above Replacement tool, Marino ranked second on the Penguins last season in GAR with 15.3. Bryan Rust was the only Pittsburgh skater with a higher total (15.9). If he would not have undergone surgery for a facial fracture, Marino would have likely finished first on the team.
Here is a look at how Dom Luszczyszyn’s model sees this contract playing out.
GSVA is Game Score Value Added. This stat uses data weighted by recency to project key box score stats and to create a projected game score that is then translated into a win value.
Luszczyszyn’s model has Marino pegged as a number one defenseman over the next five years. In 2025 and 2026, Marino is projected to perform as a top-pair defenseman. Pittsburgh will be paying 4.4 million dollars for a right-shot, top-pairing blueliner through the prime years of his career. That is excellent value for the Penguins.
As a 22-year-old rookie, Marino was arguably the best defensive defenseman in the NHL.
For every 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play, here is a look at where Marino ranked amongst NHL defenders that played a minimum of 700 minutes last season. Data is courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.
- Unblocked Shot Attempts Against: 36.68 (fifth)
- Shots Against: 27.31 (ninth)
- Scoring Chances Against: 22.99 (18th)
- High-Danger Shots Attempts Against: 8.39 (eighth)
- Expected Goals Against: 1.8 (third)
Marino ranked first amongst Penguins defenders in four of these five statistical categories. In particular, Marino’s defensive performance was dominant across the board.
If Marino can continue to develop offensively, there is a strong chance that he will outperform this contact. The return of assistant coach Todd Reirden and an increased amount of powerplay time could help here as well.
The NHL saw four tremendous rookie defenseman enter the league last season. Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, and Adam Fox are three of the four. The fourth just got paid yesterday. Last June, I wrote that Marino was getting overlooked in terms of Calder Trophy voting.
We are going to take a look at where these four fared in terms of wins above replacement in 2019-20. WAR is simply defined as a one-number estimate of the value (in terms of team wins) that an individual player provided over a replacement-level player. This data is courtesy of Evolving Hockey. Amongst all NHL defenders, here is where they ranked.
- Makar: 2.8 (eighth)
- Marino: 2.7 (ninth)
- Fox: 2.7 (ninth)
- Hughes: 2.0 (20th)
I am willing to bet that Makar and Hughes, in particular, will be making a lot more than $4.4 million on their next contract. While Marino was not as flashy as his peers, he was undoubtedly the best from a defensive standpoint.
When you look at the contracts that Jim Rutherford has signed blueliners to throughout his tenure as Penguins GM, the AAV was relatively predictable. Consider the following:
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ blueline now has Mike Matheson, Pettersson, and Marino signed through at least the 2024-25 season. Up front, Sidney Crosby and Brandon Tanev are the two forwards under contract for the next five years.
Puck drop is just one day away!
Thanks for reading!