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Jonathan Marchessault wants to stay, but can the Knights afford him?

Updated May 10, 2024 - 7:40 pm

It’s hard to imagine a Golden Knights locker room without Jonathan Marchessault.

He doesn’t just bring goal scoring and clutch moments. He always says what’s on his mind, chirps goaltenders during practice and stands out with his energy.

All of that could soon be gone.

The Knights’ all-time leader in goals, assists, points and several other statistical categories is set to be an unrestricted agent this summer with his six-year, $30 million extension about to expire. Marchessault will hit the open market July 1 unless the two sides come to an agreement beforehand.

The 33-year-old said Tuesday he hopes to stay. Marchessault has gone from 2017 expansion-draft pick to the 2023 Conn Smythe Trophy winner for playoff MVP during his seven-year run with the Knights.

“I’ve done everything I can to stay here,” Marchessault said.

Marchessault admitted he thought about free agency all year. He had moments, most recently in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, where he soaked everything in knowing it could be the last time he played a home game at T-Mobile Arena.

Marchessault said he didn’t want his contract status to be a distraction. He instead put his head down and scored a career-high 42 goals, one shy of center William Karlsson’s franchise record.

Marchessault showed the same fire and determination that led to his transformation from overlooked, undrafted prospect into one of the NHL’s most dangerous players.

“Obviously, I think everyone knows how big a part of this team he is, what he means to the team, the city, the fanbase,” said defenseman Brayden McNabb, another one of the Knights’ original members. “It’s business, but we all have Jon’s back. We love him and we want him here.”

Two things will factor into negotiations: What Marchessault wants, and what the Knights can give.

Marchessault wants to win. He’s appeared in all 95 of the Knights’ playoff games and is their leading postseason scorer with 75 points. He wants more chances to lift the Stanley Cup again.

“What’s important for me is I want to be in an organization that wants me,” Marchessault said. “I still play the game of hockey not to just play. I don’t play for fun. I play because I want to win. I want to be in a place that will help me win.”

The Knights, who have made the playoffs in six of their seven seasons, check that box.

Their 57 postseason wins are the second-most in the NHL since they started playing in 2017.

That means a deal will come down to how much the Knights value Marchessault.

He talked to general manager Kelly McCrimmon about his future Tuesday. McCrimmon said he’s started talking to Marchessault’s agent Pat Brisson — father of Knights prospect Brendan Brisson — as well.

“There’s a strong willingness on both sides to have good discussions,” McCrimmon said. “We’ll work diligently on that and see where we get to.”

As things stand, the Knights will head into free agency with $80.1 million committed to their top nine forwards, top seven defensemen and top two goaltenders. The salary cap’s upper limit is expected to rise to $87.7 million this offseason.

Marchessault’s play merits a raise from his $5 million cap hit. That means bringing him back could create a domino effect for the Knights where other players — not just the team’s other five pending unrestricted free agents — need to be shipped out to create enough flexibility to round out the roster.

Marchessault also wouldn’t be easy to replace if he does leave. Enticing pending free agents include Florida Panthers right wing Sam Reinhart and Lightning center Steven Stamkos, but they won’t come cheap.

The Knights know roster turnover is coming after they kept their Cup-winning roster mostly intact this season. Marchessault’s departure might cause the biggest ripple effect of all because of what he means to the team on and off the ice.

“Everybody in this organization loves having (Marchessault) around,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “I talk about coming to work and having fun every day. I think Marchy leads the way in that department.”

Contact Danny Webster at dwebster@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DannyWebster21 on X.

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