Gawlik: Sorry, Front Office, But Golden Knights Were Wrong on Marchessault

Vegas Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault (81) competes in the Accuracy Shooting competition during the NHL All-Star Skills event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022. (Erik Verduzco / Las Vegas Review-Journal)

If a Mount Rushmore featuring Vegas Golden Knights greats were to be constructed in the Las Vegas Valley, Jonathan Marchessault’s face would be the first one carved in. Marchessault poured his heart and soul into the organization for seven seasons.

We all know how general manager Kelly McCrimmon and the Golden Knights front office operates. No one is safe regardless if they are a Stanley Cup winner, Conn Smythe winner, Jack Adams winner, Jennings winner, or Vezina winner.

So why did losing Marchessault in the opening minutes of free agency sting so much? Golden Knights fans are conditioned to parting ways with fan-favorites such as Nate Schmidt, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Reilly Smith. Is now the right time to mention that the Golden Knights had three different head coaches in their first six seasons?

Fair take coming. The right decisions were made to part ways with Schmidt, Fleury, and Smith. Each of those trades opened up new opportunities for the Golden Knights that helped the long-term outlook of the team.

Another fair take coming. McCrimmon and the front office have been right many more times than they were wrong. McCrimmon has been among the league’s best general managers over the last seven seasons. A Stanley Cup championship, two Western Conference Final championships, three Pacific Division championships, and playoff appearances in six of seven seasons can not be ignored.

You get it by now, McCrimmon and the front office have a near impeccable record. So how could they have missed on Marchessault?

McCrimmon picked a heck of a time to put his foot down on contract terms. Noah Hanifin signed an eight-year extension worth $58.8 million with the Golden Knights one month after landing in Vegas via trade from the Calgary Flames. Hanifin will be 35-years-old when his contract is up.

McCrimmon landed Tomas Hertl from the San Jose Sharks at the trade deadline. The Golden Knights are on the hook for $40.5 million spread out over the next six seasons for Hertl. Hertl will be 36-years-old when his contract is up.

Mark Stone will be 35-years-old when his contract is up and Alex Pietrangelo will be 37-years-old when his contract is up.

Term was the sticking point between Marchessault and the Golden Knights. The Nashville Predators wasted no time signing Marchessault to a five-year deal worth $27.5 million. Marchessault will be 38-years-old when his contract expires.

McCrimmon stated, “the data doesn’t support” giving Marchessault a five-year contract. There are many Golden Knights fans that would love to see the data that supported taking on Hertl’s term.

What is this data that McCrimmon is referencing? Marchessault had a career year at age 33. Regression is expected. But what does it take to outperform a $5.5 million AAV? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 to 60 points would be an adequate return for a $5.5 million AAV. It is fair to assume that Marchessault would easily meet or exceed 50 to 60 points for the next three seasons? A 40-point floor for the fourth and fifth seasons of his current five-year deal is a reasonable expectation.

Let us take a look at the salary cap for a moment. The salary cap went up $4 million dollars to $88 million from the 2023-24 season to the 2024-25 season. Marchessault’s $5.5 million AAV represents 6.3% of the available salary cap. The salary cap is expected to increase another $4 million for the 2025-26 season, meaning Marchessault’s $5.5 million AAV will represent slightly under six percent of the available salary cap.

The salary cap could be pushing $100 million by the final year’s of Marchassault’s five-year contract.

The point being, Marchessault could have carried his weight from a salary cap perspective into the end of a five-year contract with the Golden Knights.

It is hard for McCrimmon and the front office to sell Golden Knights fans on the long term outlook with regards to Marchessault. Not after seeing Hanifin waltz into town and get an eight-year extension. Not after seeing the Golden Knights take on Hertl’s contract that is up in 2030.

We get it, McCrimmon is smart. He knows what he is doing and made sure to remind everyone.

“The fans think they know our players and I know our players better than our fans do.”

McCrimmon stated the evening after free agency started.

McCrimmon picked an odd time to flex after losing the heartbeat of the organization via free agency.

Marchassault’s exit left the Golden Knights looking to fill the void of 42 goals and 27 assists in the 2024-25 season. McCrimmon traded Paul Cotter and a third-round draft pick to the New Jersey Devils for forward Alexander Holtz and goaltender Akira Schmid. Holtz is a 22-year-old that scored 16 goals (28 points) in 82 games for the Devils last season.

Victor Olofsson was acquired via free agency. Olofsson scored 20 or greater goals three times in his career. However, the 28-year-old had just 15 points in 51 games for the Buffalo Sabres last season. Perhaps Olofsson can rekindle some chemistry with Jack Eichel from their days in Buffalo?

Pavel Dorofeyev and Brendan Brisson are being counted on to make big impacts in the loss of Marchessault.

So much needs to go right for the Golden Knights to fill the void of goals and points lost when Marchessault left the team. Even if the team finds a way to replace 40 goals with Brisson, Dorofeyev, Olofsson, and Holtz, the team still has a big void in the locker room.

McCrimmon should have bitten the bullet and agreed to Marchessault’s contract request.

We Got The Jack Inside The Rink

In episode 8 of the Inside The Rink podcast, Matty and Smitty are joined by new co-host Conrad Jack. After the long hiatus, we get back to hockey with a PACKED episode!Matt Rempe & the Devils vs. Rangers Line BrawlCould the Vancouver Canucks squander a playoff opportunity? Have the Winnipeg Jets finally figured out their lines?Flyers Head Coach John Tortorella is a sound byte MACHINEOvechkin is on his way to 895, Who is next?McDavid joins elite company with 100 Assists in a seasonRyan Hartman was suspended 3 Games, was it worth 3 games??Can Auston Matthews hit 70 Goals this season?The Eastern Conference Wild Card race is heating up, who lands the two playoff berths?For all of your hockey news and more from the show, visit us at insidetherink.com and watch us on YouTube! How to support us and our sponsors:TicketmasterColumbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITR
  1. We Got The Jack
  2. Episode 7. Player Safety First!
  3. Episode 6. Early Trade Season
  4. Episode 5. Longing For The Chiarelli Years
  5. Episode 4. Ottawa’s On Fire

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