No matter what team you cheer for in any sport, your franchise of choice will always have those players that you look back on and think… how did we let him go? That future All-Star who looked just average as a rookie, or a veteran that was traded just before they became a stalwart at their position.
In this series, we will look back at some players who spent time with the Tampa Bay Lightning before they went off and made a name for themselves with another franchise. Today we will discuss Jonathan Marchessault, who is a more recent example of this occurring for the Lightning.
Marchessault’s Time With the Lightning
When Marchessault joined the Lightning in 2014 through a deadline-day trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, little was expected from the move. It appeared to be nothing more than a swap of minor-league talent, with both franchises trading two AHL players that had potential but weren’t getting the opportunity to showcase their full abilities.
After playing out the 2013-14 season with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, Marchessault became one of their leaders in 2014-15. His 24 goals and 67 points made him one of the best on the team and pointed towards a talented playmaker who had a knack for scoring.
Starting in 2015-16, Marchessault saw more playing time in Tampa Bay, but his opportunities were still limited overall. It was clear that he had talent, but the 10 minutes or so he got on the ice each night didn’t allow him to showcase his full abilities.
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With a young roster filled with offensive talent, the Lightning decided to let Marchessault walk as a free agent in 2016. This wasn’t necessarily a slight on his abilities, just the lack of space for him on the roster.
Gamble Lets Marchessault Break out in Florida
With a new opportunity to sign anywhere in the NHL, Marchessault ended up taking a two-year deal with the Lightning’s cross-state rivals, the Florida Panthers. This appeared to be a better fit for him, as Florida was in need of a top-six scoring forward who could start playing immediately.
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Needless to say, this signing was a boon for both the Panthers and Marchessault. With a nearly four-minute increase of nightly ice-time, he would go on to score 30 goals in 2016-17, making him the first player to do so in Florida since David Booth in 2009.
Despite Marchessault being signed to an affordable contract for one more season, however, rumors started swirling that Florida would look to trade him before or at the 2017 Expansion Draft. Eventually, they left him exposed for the Vegas Golden Knights to select, in a deal to rid themselves of Reilly Smith’s contract.
Marchessault Becomes a Face of the Golden Knights
After experiencing a breakout season, it would have been expected for Marchessault’s scoring totals to decline with the newly expanded Golden Knights. However, he managed to round out his game, scoring 27 goals while posting a career-high 48 points.
As a scoring leader for Vegas, Marchessault became one of the faces of the break-out franchise. He would go on to score 21 points in the 2018 playoffs, helping to lead the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final.
After proving that he was the real deal, the Golden Knights rewarded Marchessault with a six-year, $30 million contract in the 2018 offseason. This tied him with the future of the fledgling franchise as they both continued to prove that they knew what it took to find success in the NHL.
Lightning Lost Out on Marchessault
Timing is everything in life, and unfortunately for the Lightning, Marchessault just didn’t fit with the franchise at the time that he was there. Even if they had re-signed him to the same deal as the Panthers, he wouldn’t have scored 30 goals as he did in Florida due to limited playing time.
It all worked out for both the Lightning and Marchessault in the end, though. In the coming years after his departure, Tampa Bay called up former Crunch players like Anthony Cirelli and Yanni Gourde, who would leave their marks on the franchise.
Marchessault, of course, found a home with Vegas. And for that reason alone, Lightning fans should be nothing but happy for him, even if it would have been nice to see someone with his talents still with the franchise.
All statistics are taken from hockey-reference.com.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.