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Penguins extend John Marino to six year deal, $4.4 million AAV

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A big piece of the future is now locked up for years to come

Pittsburgh Penguins v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

On the day that Penguins taining camp for the 2020-21 season opens, they announced a big deal for the future. Defenseman John Marino has been extended by the team with a six year contract, worth an average of $4.4 million annually. This contract will kick in for the start of the 2021-22 season and tie Marino to the Pens through the 2026-27 season. Marino will finish his entry level contract, with a $925,000 cap hit this season.

Here’s the team release on the signing:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed defenseman John Marino to a six-year contract extension, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The deal begins with the 2021-22 season and runs through the 2026-27 campaign, carrying an average annual value of $4.4 million. Marino has one year remaining on his entry-level deal.

“We are very fortunate to have a young, skilled defenseman like John in our organization,” Rutherford said. “His rookie season proved he is a top-four defenseman with great hockey sense. We were impressed with his strong defensive play and look forward to watching him develop offensively.”

Marino, 23, is coming off of a breakout rookie season where he suited up for 56 games, finishing with six goals, 20 assists, 26 points and a team-best (tied) plus-17 despite missing 11 games with facial bone fractures. His goal (6), assist (20), and point (26) totals all ranked second among team defensemen, while his 26 points were fourth-best among all rookie defensemen, trailing only Quinn Hughes, Adam Fox, and Calder Trophy (NHL Rookie of the Year) recipient Cale Makar.

The 6-foot-1, 181-pound blueliner historically had one of the best seasons by a rookie defenseman in team history during the 2019-20 campaign. He is one of just seven rookie defensemen in Penguins’ history to record 20 assists and 26 points, and the six-game point streak (1G-6A) he strung together from Nov. 16-27, 2019 is tied for the second-longest point streak in franchise history by a first-year defenseman.

Marino had an incredible rookie season and quickly proved himself to be an indispensable player on the team with his combination of skating ability, a defensive competency and also having a lot of calm and poise and the ability to play the puck very well. Add in the ever valuable aspect of being a right handed shot and he’s pretty much an NHL team’s dream to true to find a ready-made NHL caliber top-four defenseman that they pretty much picked out of thin air.

Signing promising defensemen to long contracts has been a forte of Pittsburgh’s, Brian Dumoulin still has three seasons left on a contract that pays him a $4.1 million cap hit that he signed back in 2017. That deal has worked out sensationally and provides excellent value with Dumoulin being a steady top-pair defender.

Sometimes it hasn’t worked out as great, Olli Maatta still has two seasons left on a $4.083 million contract that he signed back in 2016 that was partially derailed by injuries as his effectiveness hit a plateau. Florida signed Mike Matheson to a whopping eight year contract worth $4.875m annually back in 2017 and he too has turned that into a burden by failing to grow and live up to the expectations such term and money places on a player.

The Pens have also recently extended Marcus Pettersson with a $4.025 million long-term cap hit, which was no doubt inflated a little after Pettersson did the team a solid buy playing on his $780k qualifying offer last season. It remains to be seen how that will pan out, though Pettersson provided a sneaky quiet good defensive year last season.

But, even with the risk of giving a player with all of 56 career games a significant cap hit, this remains a very good bet for the Pens. At worse, Marino is already providing excellent value for a contract cap hit that won’t kick in until next season. At best, he should grow into eventually supplanting Kris Letang as the team’s top right handed defender in the years to come.

Marino fits the Dumoulin outlook a lot better than the Matheson, so this is a great move to make for Pittsburgh. It locks Marino in and buys out multiple years of unrestricted time which has a really good chance of being a huge bargain in the years to come. The NHL has a flat salary cap right now, but even that didn’t ultimately hinder high-end defensemen too bad with Alex Pietrangelo ($8.8m), Torey Krug ($6.5) and TJ Brodie ($5m) all striking it rich on multi-year contracts.

Getting Marino for far less than a market rate first pair defensemen in years 4-6 of this contract could prove to be a very nice deal for the Pens. There’s always the chance and risk that somehow his career path goes the way of Maatta or Matheson, but after watching Marino’s awesome work in his rookie year, it’s far more likely he will end up on a better path.

John Marino is definitely right there now with the Dumolin, Jake Guentzel, Jason Zucker tier of very important players that are locked in on fairly reasonable contracts that should help the Pens throughout the end of the Sidney Crosby / Evgeni Malkin era. It will probably end up proving to be a smart and wise day today that they went ahead and got him locked in for a very decent rate for a very, very long time.