Vegas Golden Knights give Marchessault a big raise

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You could argue that Jonathan Marchessault is the quintessential Vegas Golden Knights forward, so it’s fitting that he’s the first VGK scorer to get a big contract extension during this season.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie first reported that the deal would likely be for six years with a cap hit of about $5 million per season. TVA’s Renaud Lavoie backs up that it’s a six-year, $30M extension. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the salary breaks down as:

2018-19: $7M
2019-20: $6M
2020-21: $5M
2021-22: $5M
2022-23: $3.5M
2023-24: $3.5M

The Golden Knights recently made the six-year, $30M extension official.

Interestingly, such a deal is very similar to that of Reilly Smith, a player who was jettisoned from the Florida Panthers to the Golden Knights alongside Marchessault.

Well-earned

Plenty of Golden Knights came into 2017-18 with chips on their shoulders, but you could argue that Marchessault had the most on the line. At 27, Marchessault carried just a $750K cap hit into this season, so there was serious financial incentive to prove that his 30-goal, 51-point breakout from 2016-17 was no fluke.

The Golden Knights continue to strive to show that they, too, are for real, and Marchessault’s been a big part of that surge toward legitimacy.

That’s been true both lately and in this season overall. The former Florida Panthers forward has 15 goals and 37 points in 35 games, making his 1.06 points-per-game pace easily the best of his career. Marchessault’s been a huge contributor to the Golden Knights’ latest hot streak, generating at least one point in seven consecutive games (five goals, six assists).

Marchessault is likely to slow down in some areas, yet it’s worth noting that his shooting percentage isn’t outrageous this season at 12.1 percent (it’s actually lower than his career average of 13.2). He’s been a strong possession player so far for Vegas, as you can see at a quick glance at Hockey Reference.

A select group that might grow

While Marchessault is the first forward to get an in-season extension from GM George McPhee, he’s not the only Vegas forward locked up beyond 2017-18. Here’s that select group of players with multiple years remaining, with help from Cap Friendly:

Marchessault: $5M per year through 2023-24
Fellow former Florida forward Reilly Smith: $5M through 2021-22
Cody Eakin: $3.85M through 2019-20
Erik Haula (signed in June): $2.75M through 2019-20
David Clarkson‘s contract: $5.25M through 2019-20

The Golden Knights also have some key players signed through 2018-19, including goalies Malcolm Subban and Marc-Andre Fleury. Brayden McNabb is the most notable defenseman term-wise, as he’s drawing $2.5M from 2018-19 to 2021-22.

The most fascinating question, though, is “Who’s next?”

One great driving force of the Golden Knights is monetary motivation, as Marchessault is far from the only key forward on an expiring contract. James Neal‘s $5M cap hit will expire after 2017-18, as will David Perron‘s $3.75M. While those two are pending UFAs, the Golden Knights also have some intriguing RFAs to settle, with William Karlsson set to make a big jump from his current $1M. Colin Miller and Shea Theodore also stand out as blueliners who need new contracts for 2018-19.

In the case of Marchessault, the Golden Knights are still making a bit of a gamble that he’s a legitimate scorer despite a relatively small body of work at the NHL level. Marchessault has essentially played the equivalent of two full NHL seasons (159 games).

That said, while the term is risky, Marchessault can cool down quite a bit and still be well worth $5M.

Personally, it’s a delight to see the small forward finally get rewarded for all of his hard work, particularly after the Panthers were bafflingly comfortable with letting him go after a 30-goal season. His size likely explains why he wasn’t drafted and why he took quite a bit of time to get a real shot in the NHL, so it’s inspiring to see him get what he deserves.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.