Always cash-strapped, the Pittsburgh Penguins chose to lock up one of their young defenseman to a long-term deal at a reasonable deal in what they hope will be a bargain down the road. The team announced they have signed John Marino to a six-year, $26.4MM contract extension with a $4.4MM AAV.
Here is a breakdown of the deal (via TSN’s Pierre LeBrun):
2021-22: $1.75MM base salary
2022-23: $3.5MM base salary
2023-24: $5.25MM base salary
2024-25: $6.15MM base salary
2025-26: $5.3MM base salary
2026-27: $4.45MM base salary
While the Penguins are well known as a team that trades away future draft picks, general manager Jim Rutherford has become quite adept at bringing in collegiate talent to supplant some of those lost picks. Marino was one of those acquisitions as the GM picked him up from the Edmonton Oilers for a 2021 sixth-round pick as he refused to sign with the Oilers. The defenseman played three years at Harvard University. Marino subsequently signed with Pittsburgh, made the NHL squad out of training camp and very quickly worked his way into the team’s top-four, offering the team hope for the future. The 23-year-old scored six goals and 26 points in 56 games and looks to have a future.
With the team pushing for one more Stanley Cup run with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin getting older, salary cap space will be more and more critical for Pittsburgh over the next few years. Rutherford has been heavily criticized in recent years with his constant trading of top draft picks (the team has traded away their first rounder in six of the last eight years) as well as overpaying for defenseman Jack Johnson, who they team bought out this offseason. However, Rutherford has made up for those moves in other ways. While it can be risky to hand a six-year pact to player who has just one year of work in the NHL, Rutherford has made quite a living with signing good players to affordable NHL deals, including Brian Dumoulin, Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel. The hope is that Marino outplays his contract quickly and gives the team a star blueliner at a reasonable deal, something that is quite possible with him.
Marino will be counted on to play a significant role, especially with Rutherford having shaken up the blueline during the offseason. The team still has Kris Letang and Dumoulin on the top line, but the team moved on from Justin Schultz and Johnson, while bringing in Mike Matheson and Cody Ceci.
LeBrun was the first to report the deal.