John Marino is expected to open the season with the Penguins
Excluding Zach Trotman, who will likely begin the season on long-term injured reserve due to a sports hernia, the Penguins currently have nine defensemen with the NHL’s deadline to submit a season-opening roster looming on Tuesday.
Most teams keep seven on the NHL roster while several will hang onto eight. Nine is rare.
The biggest focus of speculation as to the Penguins’ blue line is veteran Jack Johnson and his salary cap hit of $3.25 million. The much-maligned Johnson has been the subject of trade speculation dating back to June after a difficult 2018-19 campaign.
Johnson, 32, has four years remaining on his contract and has been frequently used in a “fourth” defensive pairing with Chad Ruhwedel during the late stages of training camp.
It remains to be seen where he will open the season.
Regardless of however many defensemen the Penguins open the season with, you can expect prospect John Marino to be one of them. General manager Jim Rutherford certainly does.
“We’re very impressed with him,” Rutherford said. “That’s why we traded for him. He had an extremely good camp. We’re going to want him to start the year here. We may have to do a little maneuvering cap-wise here in the next few days, but my expectation is he’ll start the season in Pittsburgh.”
The Penguins acquired Marino’s signing rights in an offseason trade with the Edmonton Oilers and signed him to a two-year entry-level contract after he opted to leave Harvard following his junior season. A sixth-round pick in 2015, Marino appeared in five NHL games this preseason and recorded two assists.
The notion of potentially making the NHL roster out of training camp is understandably profound to Marino.
“It’s unbelievable,” Marino said earlier this month. “Putting a jersey on every game is something really special. You don’t take it for granted. You want to just go out there and play every shift as hard as you can.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .