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Graney: What is Jonathan Marchessault’s future with Knights?

DALLAS — There will be no defense of the Stanley Cup, no magical two-month run, no prolonged playoff push that ends in glory.

It’s over. The Golden Knights are out. There will be no parade.

Elimination came at the hands of the Dallas Stars, who beat the Knights 2-1 in Game 7 of their first-round series Sunday at American Airlines Center.

A team in Dallas that deserved to win. It was the better team most of the series. It earned the right to advance.

It means the Knights get ready for exit interviews and clean-out day and vacation plans. It also means this: The team next season could have a decidedly different look given several free agents on the roster.

Among them is one of the most popular players in franchise history in forward Jonathan Marchessault. You can’t overstate the importance of Marchessault to the Knights these past seven years, an Original Misfit who became a fan favorite almost overnight.

Fabric of team

But the Knights have hardly been afraid of moving on from such beloved names (see Fleury, Marc-Andre), and it’s uncertain if they would again.

From a player who scored 42 goals this season and won the Conn Smythe Trophy during last season’s playoffs.

He’s 33 and has completed a six-year, $30 million deal. He’s also among five players remaining from an original expansion roster in 2017-18.

This was Marchessault earlier this season: “Obviously, it’s on my mind. I have a wife and four kids. I love it here, love the organization. I think I’ve been very good for it, too. It’s just about seeing eye to eye on things. I know it’s a business. I know we’re not married to each other. But you know what you’re going to get from me every year. I have a lot of hockey in front of me.”

Maybe the organization values him in a way a contract will be struck. Maybe it happens soon. Coach Bruce Cassidy has called Marchessault the fabric of the team. Strong words. But nothing is certain in the business of professional sports except this: Things hardly remain the same year to year.

It goes to reason some of those free agents — which include the likes of Chandler Stephenson and William Carrier and Alec Martinez — have played their final game with the Knights.

“Probably not going to be able to bring everybody back,” captain Mark Stone said. “It’s just the nature of hockey. Kind of brings tears to your eyes when you realize you’re not going to be with the same group of guys.

“You build these bonds and friendships, and you have to see friends and teammates go.”

It was a deeper roster than last season’s championship team. It just didn’t play as well in the biggest of moments. The overall score of the series was 16-16. It was that close.

But when it mattered most Sunday, Dallas made the plays that equaled victory.

Think about it: Marchessault hit a post in the first period, and the Stars came right back down and scored for a 1-0 lead. The Knights then missed an open net at the end of the second, and Dallas went up 2-1 on its first shift of the third. The margin was razor thin since the puck dropped in Game 1.

You need to find a way when up 2-0 in a best-of-seven and both were road wins. You need to discover something that allows you not to then lose consecutive home games. That’s all on the Knights.

Yes. They faced adversity again this season with injuries — nine players had surgeries — but had everyone except defenseman Nic Hague available for all seven games. Some guys weren’t 100 percent. That’s every team this time of year.

They’re not moving on because the other team was better.

The future

And now, as it is when any season concludes, it’s about looking to the future.

“We have a lot of good people in this room,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “The longer you play, the more you appreciate the people. You obviously like playing the game, but it’s the people who make it fun coming to work every day. It’s an unfortunate part of the business. Obviously, we’d love to keep everyone together.”

That won’t happen. It’s an organization that from expansion birth has always done what it believes gives it the best chance at winning, no matter from whom it might move on.

Part of the business. Part of reality.

Ed Graney, a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing, can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on X.

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