Jonathan Marchessault has earned an extended future with Vegas Golden Knights

Pay the man.

The Vegas Golden Knights have a whole lot going for them right now. Two whole months into the season, the Golden Knights are 17-9-1 and trail the Pacific-leading Los Angeles Kings by just four points with two games in hand. Clearly, things are looking up for the NHL’s newest franchise.

But when the season ends, the Golden Knights will have a bevy of very important personnel decisions to make.

Roughly half of Vegas’ roster will hit free agency after the season. Big names such as James Neal, David Perron, William Karlsson and Colin Miller, among many others, will all be looking for new contracts and, needless to say, the Golden Knights will have to thoroughly calculate who they believe can bring the most long-term value to the table.

Out of all the impending free agents on Vegas’ roster, however, arguably none have been quite as critical to the Golden Knights’ success as Jonathan Marchessault. With 10 goals and 25 points in 24 games, the 26-year-old forward (he turns 27 on Dec. 27) has emerged as one of Vegas’ most impactful players through the first quarter of the season and may very well be headed to his first career NHL All-Star game.

A deeper dive into the numbers only magnifies Marchessault’s dominance this season. Not only does he rank second out of all Golden Knights skaters with a 55.15 Corsi For percentage at 5v5, but he also leads the entire NHL with 1.46 Expected Goals For per 60 at even strength. It should be noted, however, that no player with a minimum of 300 minutes of ice time in a season has ever managed an ixGF/60 that high in recorded history (since 2007-08), so don’t be totally surprised when Marchessault sees a slight regression in that category by season’s end.

Nevertheless, the big question coming into this season was whether Marchessault could prove that his impressive 30-goal 2016-17 campaign wasn’t merely a fluke. Not only has he done just that, but he’s also emerging as one of the very best forwards in all of hockey.

Marchessault is in the final year of his contract with a ridiculously modest cap hit of just $750,000. To put that number into perspective, Marchessault will make only $50,000 more than Arizona Coyotes winger Zac Rinaldo this year. Zac. Freaking. Rinaldo.

Deservedly, the Cap-Rouge, Quebec native will be looking for a hefty pay raise in the offseason. And there’s no reason to believe it won’t be the Golden Knights who fork over the dough to keep him in Vegas.

Currently, only three teams (Coyotes, Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche) are projected to have more cap space than the Golden Knights this offseason, per CapFriendly. Barring an unforeseen turn of events, Vegas has the financial capabilities to grant Marchessault the contract extension he so desires.

But how big a contract could that be?

According to Matt Cane of Puck++, who projects frighteningly accurate salary estimates for impending free agents, Marchessault is on pace to earn a contract worth roughly $4.3 million to $6.5 million annually.

A full display of Cane’s calculations:

Jonathan Marchessault contract probabilities

Number of YearsProbabilitySalary

As displayed in Cane’s estimates, Marchessault’s future contract is far more likely to have a term of one-to-four years as opposed to five-to-eight years, which is certainly a good thing. Short-term deals are much easier to move and reduce the likelihood of a player suffering a major drop-off in production by the contract’s expiration date. Long-term deals, especially with a high average annual value (AAV), are risky, as not all players manage to produce at the level correlative to their AAV for an extended amount of time (see Rick Nash of the New York Rangers).

But what about salary? When averaging the total of Cane’s estimates, it appears plausible that Marchessault could receive a contract with an AAV of around $5.7 million — a very fair price to pay for a guy playing at a point-per-game clip. Other NHL forwards with a similar AAV include T.J. Oshie, Tyler Seguin, Mikael Granlund and Jeff Skinner, to name a few. Of course, that number can obviously rise or fall based on negotiations and Marchessault’s ultimate output for the 2017-18 season.

Considering Marchessault’s age, elite skill and the fact that he should be affordable for the Golden Knights, though, it doesn’t appear to be a matter of if Vegas signs him to an extension. At this point, it’s more a matter of when.

What say you? Give us your ideal contract extension for Marchessault:

All statistics courtesy of Corsica.Hockey.