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Why the Vancouver Canucks should target John Marino from New Jersey

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Photo credit:© Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
18 days ago
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It might not be the defenceman that Vancouver would like to pry from the New Jersey Devils, but there’s certainly some noise surrounding a certain 27-year-old right-shot defenceman.
Brett Pesce’s expected arrival to the Devils means that John Marino’s place in New Jersey’s back end is now up in the air. At a $4.4 million cap hit, he’s not exactly cheap to keep around as a bottom-pairing defender, and New Jersey will likely be looking to move on from him if everything goes as planned to acquire Pesce.
Vancouver’s interest in Marino dates back to when the defenceman was first traded from the Penguins to the Devils in the 2022 offseason. According to the rumours, the Canucks were looking to add Marino for a third-round selection and Jack Rathbone, who was since dealt to the Pens. Two years later, there now appears to be another opportunity to add Marino to the fold.
It wasn’t an easy season in New Jersey, with injuries to Dougie Hamilton and Jack Hughes hampering the success of the team. The Devils floundered in a very tough Metropolitan Division, finding themselves on the outside looking in when it came to the playoff picture. Naturally, that’s led to some shakeups in the roster, with the Devils already making a big splash in acquiring Jacob Markstrom from the Flames.
In the midst of all of this, John Marino put up a steady, solid, if unspectacular campaign. Finishing as the second-highest scoring defenceman on the team behind Luke Hughes, Marino played the most penalty kill minutes of anyone on the Devils roster. His 25 points won’t set the world alight, but that production was still good in the context of the Devils year. Where he stood out was his play on the back end, both on the penalty kill and even strength. Marino has good mobility, allowing him to defend the rush well and make more puck retrievals against opposing forechecks.
While it won’t necessarily show up on the scoresheet, Marino is good at moving the puck. Since his rookie year in Pittsburgh, the defenceman has shown the ability to consistently make the first pass to break out of the zone cleanly, or carry it into the neutral zone and gain the offensive zone for his team. As the Canucks look to try and improve their transition game, having someone like Marino to help increase the dynamics of their zone entries deeper in the lineup could prove to be a difference maker.
He won’t be putting up big production for a team, but that’s not the role Marino should be cast for. The defenceman is good through the neutral zone to the defensive zone and good at getting pucks into the offensive zone. Putting him into the mix should add a really good top-4 defensive defenceman more than capable of holding his own against tough competition, and Marino being right-handed to boot doesn’t hurt either. Putting Marino alongside Carson Soucy all of a sudden creates a very good shutdown pairing option, with Soucy having the size to help deal with sticky situations should Marino be unable to come up with the puck. Adding depth to that side helps push someone like Tyler Myers to the bottom pairing — and if someone like Myers is on the bottom pairing, that’s a pretty darn good-looking defence corps.
Marino represents a great candidate to buy low on, given the season’s results and New Jersey looking to make a move to clear out cap. The biggest problem? How would the Canucks be able to do it with their limited trade capital and slight crunch on the cap? Ideally, this is when moving Ilya Mikheyev out would help the most, essentially swapping his $4.75 million hit for Marino’s $4.4 million, which is not only slightly cheaper but even better usage than a winger who can’t score. Problem is, the Devils would never take Mikheyev in a trade involving Marino. Who else would be left? Would one of Vasily Podkolzin or Aatu Räty be enough? Vancouver doesn’t have many picks that they could deal away, and perhaps NJ’s asking price would be too steep for the Canucks to trade for viably.
It’s not ruling out Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford getting creative. They’ve shown in the past season just what kind of wheeling and dealing they can do. Marino would be a great addition at the value he’s signed for and what he brings to a team’s back end. If the acquisition cost makes sense, there’s no reason why Vancouver shouldn’t be targeting another good top-4 RHD.
 

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