The free agent market has begun to cool, so the trades have picked up the slack.
The New Jersey Devils swung a deal to bolster their blueline on Saturday afternoon, acquiring defenseman John Marino from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for defenseman Ty Smith and a third-round pick in the 2023 draft.
This is a great example of what pundits like to call a "hockey trade".
After a disastrous 2021-22 season, the Devils entered the summer looking to add some established talent to the back-end and did exactly that by nabbing Marino from the Penguins. Just 25 years old, Marino is a legitimate top-four defender who particularly excels in his own end. The Massachusetts native is responsible with the puck, takes very few penalties, and has put up some of the best defensive metrics in the league at even-strength over the past two seasons, chipping in a respectable 25 points in 81 games last year to give his team some offensive value, too.
At a cap hit of $4.4 million for the next five years, though, the Penguins clearly thought that they could replace Marino's value at a fraction of the price.
Smith is their method of doing it. The 22-year-old has had a rollercoaster start to his NHL career, bursting onto the scene in 2021 with a tremendous season that earned him a selection to the NHL's First-Team All-Rookie Team, before then experiencing a massive sophomore slump last year that saw him produce some of the worst defensive numbers in the league.
On a Devils blueline with very little help around him, those struggles are not entirely surprising. Smith will now be joining a Penguins team that offers him far more insulation, perhaps affording an opportunity to regain his confidence and realize his still-sizeable potential.
In making that bet, the Penguins now effectively clear over $3 million in cap space next season which they can use to make further upgrades to their team.
Everyone addresses their needs, and everyone gets what they want.
Don't we love a happy ending?