#3: Not Protecting Jonathan Marchessault
Yeah, this decision still confuses me too. In Tallon’s first offseason back as general manager, he chose not to protect Jonathan Marchessault in the Vegas Expansion Draft back in the 2017 offseason.
This wasn’t even a bad decision in hindsight; it was a bad decision in that exact moment. Marchessault had just finished his first season with the Panthers in 2016-17, an abysmal season filled with bad moves and injuries to key players which saw the team miss the playoffs by 14 points immediately after winning the division. In that season, Marchessault was one of the lone bright spots.
Marchessault was third on the team in points with 51 and was the club’s top goal scorer with 30 goals. Whether it comes with an asterisk because Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov missed significant lengths of the season is your decision, but in my eyes, 30 goals in 75 games is impressive no matter where you get it.
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Marchessault was also on one of the best contracts in the NHL at the time, making just $725,000 to score 30 goals and was penciled into that contract for one more season.
To put that into perspective, the best non-rookie making less than $800,000 in the NHL this past season was Washington’s Nic Dowd. His stats? 8 goals and 14 goals in 64 games, not even close to Marchessault’s 30 goals and 21 assists in 75 games.
To make matters worse, Marchessault would improve even more as a top liner for the Vegas Golden Knights, posting 75 points (27G & 48A) in 77 NHL games that next season, leading Vegas to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Panthers that season missed the playoffs by a single point.
If the Panthers could’ve had Marchessault instead of Frank Vatrano or Radim Vrbata on the top six that season, they not only would’ve qualified for the playoffs, but made a deep playoff run that season.
Instead, they sat on their couches in early April while Marchessault helped Vegas pull one of the greatest playoff runs in NHL history.
The only reason that this is left at No. 3 and not higher up on the list is due to the contract extension Marchessault received in Vegas. If he got this paycheck with Florida, the Panthers wouldn’t have the cap space to bring in Evgenii Dadonov and Mike Hoffman.