More Veteran Signings to Come for Golden Knights?
On Wednesday, the Vegas Golden Knights signed Jonathan Marchessault to a six-year, $30-million contract extension. It’s a significant investment in the 27-year-old forward, who’s emerged as the club’s leading scorer with 37 points in 36 games through Jan.4, 2018.
Golden Knights general manager George McPhee raised some eyebrows at last June’s expansion draft with his selections of Marchessault and veteran forwards James Neal and David Perron. While they had offensive experience, the trio were eligible for unrestricted free agency on July 1, 2018.
When this season began, the expansion Golden Knights weren’t expected to be a playoff club. Once they were out of contention by February, many experts assumed McPhee would take the long view by peddling the trio for draft picks and prospects.
However, the script didn’t played out as expected. The Golden Knights not only exceeded the experts’ assumptions, they find themselves at midseason perched atop the Western Conference standings with the league’s best home record.
Re-signing Marchessault, a late-blooming scorer who tallied 30 goals with the Florida Panthers last season, sends a message the Golden Knights have no intention of becoming sellers. Indeed, one can’t dismiss the notion McPhee could instead go shopping at the trade deadline for an affordable playoff rental player or two.
The Marchessault signing could also signal Vegas’ intent to retain Neal and Perron.
Re-signing Marchessault, whose current annual salary is $750,000, to a six-year extension worth an average annual value of $5 million, can be easily justified. He’s in his late-twenties and still trending upward, on pace this season for a career-high 35 goals and 85 points.
Neal and Perron, meanwhile, are riskier long-term options.
With 17 goals in 39 games, Neal is on the verge of reaching the 20-goal plateau for the tenth consecutive season. He’s also on pace for 35 goals, which would be his second-highest single-season total.
However, there’s no certainty the 31-year-old Neal will reach the 30-goal heights beyond 2017-18. Given his age, the wear-and-tear of his physical style and the fact he tends to have long goalless droughts, he doesn’t have many more 20-goal seasons ahead of him.
The 29-year-old Perron, meanwhile, has 32 points in 33 games, putting him on track for a career-best 73 points. He’s closing in on hitting the 40-point mark for the sixth time.
Injuries, however, could be a concern for Perron, who turns 30 on May 28. He suffered a serious concussion earlier in his career, though he’s been symptom-free since 2012. He also missed six games this season with an upper-body injury.
It also remains to be seen if Neal and Perron are keen to remain with the Golden Knights. Solid performances this season could tempt them into testing the UFA market in July.
If the Golden Knights were at the bottom of the standings, McPhee would probably shop them at the trade deadline. Given their present lofty position in the standings, the Vegas GM won’t put his club’s chances for a postseason run in jeopardy by moving either guy.
Neal and Perron provide the Knights with veteran skills and experience. They’ve played key roles in the club’s unexpectedly strong expansion season. They could also see themselves playing for Vegas beyond this season.
If one or both seek expensive long-term deals, McPhee could let them test the market this summer, even though it means losing them for nothing. He won’t want to tie up too much salary-cap payroll for too long in potentially fading assets, especially when he’ll want to use that money down the road to re-sign younger talent.
But if they’re willing to accept, say, three- or four-year deals worth between $4.5 million to $5 million each, perhaps they have a place in the Golden Knights’ future.