In the grand scheme of things, on a day when hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on years-long commitments to some of the top free agents, the two-year pact that brought Jonathan Marchessault to the Florida Panthers on July 1, 2016, seemed like an afterthought.
It didn’t take long for that to change, however.
In the early part of last season, Marchessault was nothing short of an offensive revelation. Across his first 10 games, he had scored five goals and 11 points. By the 20-game mark, Marchessault had nine goals and 16 points. At mid-season, he had basically doubled his previous career-best marks. And when the campaign came to a close, Marchessault’s breakout season was complete with 30 goals and 51 points in 75 games.
At the price the Panthers had paid, a measly $750,000 for his services, Marchessault was undoubtedly one of the great free agent steals, and not just of the season, either. He was one of the better bang-for-your-buck signings that had been made in the entire salary cap era. But then, almost inexplicably, came the expansion draft exposure. Despite his dream season, despite his 30-goal production, despite the fact he was under contract at a paltry sum for another campaign, the Panthers decided to leave Marchessault unprotected for the Golden Knights’ expansion draft. As many expected, Vegas didn’t hesitate to select Marchessault.
The one question surrounding Marchessault this season, though, was whether or not he could repeat his performance. And maybe that’s why the Panthers offered him up. He had shot a bloated 15.5 percent in 2016-17 and he had no prior history of the kind of production he had shown during his breakout in Florida. But the answer — or so it would seem — is that Marchessault is, in fact, the real deal.
Through 33 games in Vegas this season, Marchessault has been as much the offensive catalyst that he was one year prior in Florida. His 13 goals and 34 points make him better than a point per game player and put him tops on the team in scoring. His 17-plus minutes of ice time make him a key cog in the Golden Knights’ top six. And his already impressive point totals have him on pace to smash the career-high mark he set last season. If he keeps this up, he’ll end the year with 31 goals and a whopping 81 points. That’s one heck of a lot of value when you consider Marchessault’s still earning just $750,000 this season.
Here’s the thing, though: with every goal, every point, every day spent as the Golden Knights’ leading scorer, Marchessault’s asking price on his next contract is undoubtedly going up. And set to become a free agent at season’s end, you can rest assured that there are plenty of GMs around the league paying close attention to Marchessault’s situation, with more than a few who will be falling over themselves to bring the 27-year-old aboard if he hits the open market. And with that in mind, it’s worth wondering exactly what Marchessault is going to be worth when it comes to his next deal.
The one thing we know for sure when it comes to Marchessault’s next deal is that it’s going to pay him a whole lot more than the three-quarters of a million he’s currently earning. That’s a given as he fires his way to his second consecutive 30-goal campaign. But with back to back years of 30 tallies, one has to wonder if he couldn’t see a raise that’s seven or eight times what he’s making as he heads towards free agency. Such a deal would see Marchessault earn upwards of $5.5 million per season on his next deal, and that doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. While that kind of money wasn’t handed out often this past summer, consider that the likes of T.J. Oshie, Patrick Marleau, Alexander Radulov, Bryan Little and Kyle Turris have signed extensions or new deals worth between $5 million and $6.25 million since the past round of free agency, and the season Marchessault is having now — with the pace he’s scoring at — would see him produce more than any of those players did heading into their new contracts.
Oshie, for instance, had a great season ahead of signing an eight-year, $46-million deal with the Washington Capitals, but he ended his campaign with 33 goals and 56 points. Albeit, he did so in 68 games, but a full season would have seen him produce 68 points. Marchessault, as noted, is on pace to put up 81 points this season. Moving on, Marleau, while having a rich history of top-level production, managed 27 goals and 46 points in 82 games last season before signing a three-year deal worth $6.25 million per season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Radulov, too, had a season that paled in comparison to Marchessault’s current year. Leading up to his five-year, $31.25-million contract with the Dallas Stars, Radulov notched 18 goals and 54 points in 76 games with the Montreal Canadiens. Then there’s Little’s $5.292-million per season contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets — which came on the heels of 21 goals, 47 points in 59 games — and the fact Turris earned himself $6 million per season on an extension with the Nashville Predators after netting 27 goals and 55 points in 78 games.
All those deals would seem to indicate the going rate for a player who can score 30 goals and 80 points is upwards of $5 million, and with the salary cap reportedly set to increase by as much as several million, there’s a fair chance Marchessault can vault himself from a sub-million dollar player into one earning as much or more than $6 million per season. And depending on his asking price, the Golden Knights, who have six unrestricted and seven restricted free agents on their roster, will have to decide whether they want to pay up big to keep Marchessault.
No matter where he lands, though, Marchessault is almost assuredly going to land one of the summer’s biggest raises. And he’ll have earned every cent the hard way.
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