This post is part of Golden Knights Day on PHT…
Score 30 goals in a season and people around the NHL quickly take notice.
With heightened expectations following a breakout 2016-17 campaign, Jonathan Marchessault will go into this season as a member of the Vegas Golden Knights, having been one of the surprise players left unprotected for June’s expansion draft. He also has one year remaining on his bargain of a contract before he’s eligible for unrestricted free agency.
On a team beset by injuries to key players last season, the undrafted Marchessault — who also stands 5-foot-9 tall and 174 pounds — became a bright spot for the Florida Panthers, who entered the year with high expectations but fell short of the playoffs.
The Panthers made Marchessault available for the Golden Knights, who didn’t pass up the opportunity to land the scoring center. That Florida made him available in the first place was certainly a hit to his self esteem, Marchessault later admitted.
“I don’t know [why I wasn’t protected]. I was surprised also,” Marchessault said this summer, per Sportsnet.
“I tried to give everything I had last year. Everyone was asking me if I’m going to get protected or not. My answer was, ‘I gave everything I had. I have no regrets.”
With 30 goals and 51 points for Florida last season, the now 26-year-old Marchessault provided tremendous value, playing on a two-year contract with a salary and cap hit of only $750,000. Another productive season and he should be able to cash in with a sizable raise. Whether that’s with the Golden Knights or another team via the open market will be determined at a later point in time.
There are the obvious candidates for a Vegas ‘Under Pressure’ post: James Neal is among them. He has nine consecutive seasons in which he has scored at least 20 goals, reaching the 40-goal plateau once and scoring 31 in 2015-16. This Vegas roster will need a player like Neal to produce. He comes with a $5 million cap hit as he enters the final year of his contract before being eligible for unrestricted free agency. Marc-Andre Fleury, by virtue of being a goalie with three Stanley Cup rings and the likely starter for this historical season in Vegas, is another.
Marchessault right now doesn’t make nearly the same amount of money as those two players, though that could eventually change. With a 30-goal season, the surprise of being left unprotected in the expansion draft, and entering a contract year while playing in the league’s newest market, there is going to be added pressure on him to see if he can replicate — or at least come close to replicating — that same production.
“That’s my goal, I want to go there and improve every year,” Marchessault told NHL.com. “I just want to help my team win every night. Now it’s up to me to respond.”