Before breaking out as a legitimate scorer in the NHL last season, Jonathan Marchessault bounced around so much he spent a season living in one Tampa hotel to another.
After his breakout season in which he lead a disappointing Florida Panthers team in scoring, Marchessault appeared to find a home in South Florida.
Now, perhaps, he may be headed to Las Vegas.
Marchessault is one of a handful of Florida players who were left unprotected by the team and up for grabs by the new Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas general manager George McPhee — formerly of the Washington Capitals — said he would be selecting his team on Tuesday; Vegas’ first batch of NHL players will be unveiled Wednesday during the NHL Awards Show televised live (8 p.m., NBCSN) from, appropriately enough, the Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The Golden Knights will turn their initial roster into the NHL on Wednesday morning. Vegas must take one player from each of the 30 teams and each team can only lose one player.
“We’ll see what happens,” Gerard Gallant, the former Florida Panthers coach who was hired by Vegas in May, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“I know we have some very smart hockey people who have worked very hard to get the best group of players possible, and we’ll work with whatever they give us.”
The Panthers could have protected seven forwards, three defensemen and a goalie on their expansion list yet decided to take the ‘4-4-1’ route and protect an extra defenseman while, ultimately, leaving two extra skaters exposed to the Golden Knights.
With defensemen Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad secure, the Panthers would have had to choose between Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic on who would not be protected. By going ‘4-4-1,’ Florida protected both.
By doing that, scorers like Marchessault — who led the Panthers with 30 goals last season — and Reilly Smith are now available to Vegas. Defenseman Jason Demers, who signed a five-year deal with the team last July, and veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo are also on the list.
“It surprised me,” Marchessault told French-Canadian sports network TVA in a phone call on Monday. “I’m disappointed. My ego took a [hit].”
Marchessault continued to say that the players Florida had a reason for what it did and the four forwards protected ahead of him — Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov, Nick Bjugstad and Vincent Trocheck — are “four very good players.”
General manager Dale Tallon hasn’t spoken on his decisions (he will on Thursday), but Marchessault’s contractual status could be a reason he was left off their protected list. Although the Panthers got Marchessault and Colton Sceviour for a song last July, that won’t be the case moving forward.
Marchessault was signed to a two-year deal for a bargain price of $750,000 per season. After scoring 30 goals in his first full NHL season at age 26, he’s going to command much, much more following this coming season.
“I'm definitely a great deal for them,” Marchessault said of his current contract, “but it depends on their plan. If they want to build long term, I may not be the right guy. There is only one season left on my contract.”
Marchessault also told a Montreal radio station he felt he was part of Florida’s plan coming into the offseason. Tallon was said to be trying to swing a deal with the Knights to not select Marchessault, perhaps offering a high draft pick in exchange for taking someone else off Florida’s non-protected list.
Gallant had Marchessault for 22 games this season before being fired by the Panthers after a 11-10-1 start to the season.
▪ The Panthers will hold their annual development camp June 27-30 at their training facility in Coral Springs. The roster will be determined following this weekend’s NHL Draft which is being held at Chicago’s United Center.
The Panthers will also host a Summer Summit with new coach Bob Boughner on June 29 at BB&T Center.
THE VEGAS EXPANSION DRAFT
▪ Protected players (4 forwards, 4 defenseman, 1 goalie): Jonathan Huberdeau, Sasha Barkov, Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Keith Yandle, Aaron Ekblad, Alex Petrovic, Mark Pysyk, James Reimer.
▪ Key players left unprotected: Jussi Jokinen, Derek MacKenzie, Jonathan Marchessault, Colton Sceviour, Michael Sgarbossa, Reilly Smith, Jason Demers, Roberto Luongo.
▪ Key free agents: Jaromir Jagr, Thomas Vanek, Jakub Kindl.
▪ Not eligible: Mike Matheson, Denis Malgin.
▪ Vegas selections: The Golden Knights will be able to select one player from each team’s unprotected list. The team will unveil its initial roster with expansion draft picks during Wednesday’s NHL Awards Show from Vegas (8 p.m., NBCSN).