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Where do the Knights stand with their 6 unrestricted free agents?

The Golden Knights were fortunate.

Not many defending Stanley Cup champions have the ability to bring back nearly the same roster the following season.

Free agency was decided before the market opened July 1 last summer. The Knights re-signed goaltender Adin Hill (two years, $9.8 million on June 30) and left wing Ivan Barbashev (five years, $25 million on June 28) before the action started.

The same could happen again.

The Knights have six unrestricted free agents to decide on between now and the end of June. Not everyone is expected back, as general manager Kelly McCrimmon attested to Tuesday.

“There’s going to be potentially more turnover this year. It’s just where I think we’re at contractually,” McCrimmon said. “That’s where our attention goes next.”

Tough decisions are coming, even with the salary cap rising to a projected $87.7 million. The Knights have $80.1 million committed to their top nine forwards, top seven defensemen and top two goalies.

“We’ve spoken with representatives of each of those players. We’ve talked to each of those players themselves,” McCrimmon said. “We’ve got the next two months to work on that.”

Here’s a look at the six UFAs:

RW Jonathan Marchessault

2023-24 season: Career-high 42 goals, led Knights with 69 points and played all 82 games

The top priority for the Knights.

Marchessault followed up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP with the best goal-scoring season of his career. He fell one shy of tying center William Karlsson’s team record of 43 from 2018.

He’s missed 23 games in seven seasons with the Knights to become their all-time leader in goals (191) and assists (224).

“I would love to stay. It’s my home,” Marchessault said. I’ve been a part of the guys that started this. It’s the most proud thing I’ve done in my life professionally. Just happy to be a Golden Knight. I’d like to be one for the rest of my life, but that’s not necessarily in my control.”

Two important questions loom: How much will Marchessault ask for, and how much can the Knights give?

One thing’s for sure: He’s earned a raise from his previous $5 million cap hit.

“He’s done everything humanly possible to put himself in a good position,” McCrimmon said. “We really like the player, and his value extends far beyond what you see on the ice.”

Ultimately, it would be difficult to see the Knights not get something done. Marchessault wants to stay. The Knights want something done.

Not to mention it would create a giant, empty space in the Knights’ locker room.

LW William Carrier

2023-24 season: Eight points in 39 games

Marchessault isn’t the only original Knight testing the market.

Carrier, selected from the Buffalo Sabres in the 2017 expansion draft, played the final year of a four-year, $5.6 million contract he signed in February 2020.

The fourth-line left wing has made a presence for his wrecking-ball mentality and physical presence on the Knights’ “identity line.”

Injuries, however, have hampered Carrier’s availability.

He missed 43 games due to an upper-body surgery in January and another upper-body injury March 25.

Carrier is a beloved original, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Knights move on. Left wing Paul Cotter appeared in 76 games this season and might be best suited for that role. Left wing Jonas Rondbjerg could get a look as well.

C Chandler Stephenson

2023-24 season: Third straight 50-point season (51) in 75 games

It will go down as the greatest pick-for-player trade in Knights history.

A fifth-round pick is all it cost to land Stephenson from the Washington Capitals in December 2019. It’s been a home run trade ever since.

Stephenson turned into a top-line center with 237 points in 327 games and was named an All-Star for the first time last season. He’s outplayed that four-year, $11 million contract.

It’s for that reason the Knights may not bring him back.

The writing was on the wall when the Knights acquired Tomas Hertl at the trade deadline. Hertl has five years at a $6.75 million cap hit remaining on his deal.

Teams would be willing to pay for a proven top-six center. The Knights could find a way to keep Stephenson, but paying him money to play out of position isn’t feasible.

D Alec Martinez

2023-24 season: 17 points in 55 games

The 36-year-old defenseman took a long pause before exiting the rink after Game 7 against the Dallas Stars.

It was as if Martinez accepted it was his last NHL game.

Martinez did not speak during exit interviews Tuesday, so it’s unclear what he’s thinking.

The Knights might not have the roster room to keep him, though. They have seven defensemen already signed, and also have defensemen Kaedan Korczak and Lukas Cormier waiting in the wings with the Silver Knights.

The “warrior” moniker has suited Martinez. From his hundreds of blocked shots to coming back from a facial cut that could’ve ended his career, he’s earned the right to call it quits as a three-time champion.

“He’s probably one of the best teammates, if not the best teammate I’ve ever had,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said.

RW Michael Amadio

2023-24 season: Tied career-high with 27 points

Another player who’s played his best hockey with the Knights.

Amadio went from a fringe starter to a key contributor on a Stanley Cup-winning team. He’s been around for big moments, like scoring the game-winning overtime goal in Game 3 in Winnipeg in last season’s first round. He also scored one of the nine goals in the Cup-clinching Game 5 against Florida.

The 27-year-old right wing made $762,500 last season and has earned a pay raise. If the Knights want to bring back a depth forward for the bottom six, Amadio wouldn’t be a bad option.

RW Anthony Mantha

2023-24 season: Had 10 points in 18 games after being acquired in trade with the Washington Capitals

It was a good start to Mantha’s tenure with the Knights. After just one goal in his first seven games, he ended the season with nine points in 11 games.

But Mantha found himself on the bench after Game 3 against Dallas and never saw the ice again.

He was brought in as a big body who could crash the net, but there wasn’t enough of that against Dallas.

Look for the 29-year-old forward to find a new home this summer.

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

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