As of now I am writing this article on the day the expansion draft list released. So if Florida and Las Vegas have some kind of backdoor deal established that I just don’t know about, please don’t crucify my opinion in the comments.
Anyhow WHY was Jonathan Marchessault not protected by the Florida Panthers.
Marchessault was arguably the NHL’s biggest breakout star this past campaign, as he scored 30 goals to complement 21 more assists in 75 games. This all occurred in the wake of Huberdeau cutting his leg and missing several months this season. This left the relatively unknown winger to emerge and score several highlight reel goals along the way.
Boasting tremendous stick-handling skills and supreme on-ice awareness, the Quebec-born forward saw his average ice time jump by close to five minutes compared to his 45-game rookie tour with the Lightning in 2015-16. He’ll be so very tempting to Vegas since he has just one year left on a contract valued at $750,000.
Here is the protection list for Florida.
They opted to do the unorthodox 8-1 method for protection. In this case it works in a 4-4-1 manner.
Marchessault is 26 years old, holds a budget friendly contract and was the Panthers leading scorer last season. Truly a wild move from the franchise.
The only argument I can find relevant here is that Marchessault is only under contract for one more season and will likely require a large contract. This might not fit into the long term budget of the Panthers. While the franchise might be looking towards players with longer contracts, this is still a strange move for the franchise.
The four defensemen protected were Aaron Ekblad, 21, a former Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star, veteran Keith Yandle, who had to be protected because of a no-move clause in his contract, and two 25-year-old defensemen in Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk, both restricted free agents.
In terms of Petrovic and Pysyk are BOTH RFA’s this season and will require major funds sent in their direction.
That leaves veteran defenseman Jason Demers at risk for an address change. Demers, 29, a free-agent addition from Dallas last summer signed through 2021 at $4.5 million per season had a career-high 9 goals. Despite his stellar penalty-killing skills, Demers notched a minus-14 ice rating and isn’t overly physical.
Using Demers as an example expect the two protected RFA defense man to receive similar contracts.
Scorers are hard to come by in this expansion draft. Tangible results in forwards and defense man warrant protection.
A 50 point, cap friendly player in the prime of his career is unlikely to be found around the league.
While some might say Marchessault had a once in a career year. But with Florida’s down year after making the playoff’s in 2015-16 season, Marchessault was truly a shining light on the team.
In my opinion he is a lock for Las Vegas. Again I reiterate, if Vegas arranges a side deal with Florida, he would still be worth picking.
Scorers are hard to come by in the expansion draft, as justifying their protection is must easier. Intangible stats like defensive awareness make two way forwards and defensive D plentiful in this expansion.
Marchessault along with James Neal and Eric Staal were among the elite forwards left unprotected by their teams.
Marchessault’s age, cost effective contract and potential left in the league make him an extremely viable player to be selected in the draft. This separates him from the list of names mentioned above. He would be a standout player in the Vegas franchise, and would be able to utilize top line minutes and PP time.