After breakout 30-goal season, Marchessault among surprises left unprotected in expansion draft

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Jonathan Marchessault provided terrific value for the Florida Panthers last season. So yeah, it was a little surprising to see the 26-year-old forward left unprotected for the upcoming expansion draft.

The Panthers opted to go with eight skaters — four forwards and four defenseman — in their protected list, exposing Marchessault, who could be an intriguing option for Vegas as it builds its group of forwards.

He broke out last season in Florida, scoring 30 goals. His previous career best was seven in 45 games the previous season with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He also finished the 2016-17 campaign with 51 points — while playing on a two-year contract that has a very, very affordable cap hit of $750,000.

He’s a pending unrestricted free agent following next season.

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Don’t you have to find a way to protect Jonathan Marchessault, after the season he had and with his contract? The Panthers opted to protect four defensemen, including Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk, and left their 30-goal forward exposed for … reasons? Maybe a side deal is in order. Or maybe they just assume that the Knights will take Jason Demers instead.

There have been rumblings that perhaps Marchessault could soon find himself hitting the trade market. At least based on the lists made public Sunday, he’s now available to Vegas, and could be quite a bargain next season for the Golden Knights.