Why Rangers should pursue Jonathan Marchessault in NHL free agency

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Final for the second time in three seasons, it is clear that the New York Rangers are in need of one or two more pieces that can help take them to the next level. One option worth exploring is unrestricted free agent forward Jonathan Marchessault of the Vegas Golden Knights.

This goes against the notion that the Rangers need to get younger, bigger, and stronger, but Marchessault could be a difference maker as a top-six right wing, playing either with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider or on any new line configuration.

Marchessault is coming off of a 42-goal season with the Golden Knights, an NHL career-high in his 11th season. He finished with 69 points, just shy of his 75-point career best. He’s a seven-time 20-goal scorer and has scored 30 or more three times. He’s durable and consistent, and would be a big upgrade for the Rangers.

Additionally, Marchessault is a proven playoff performer. He won the Stanley Cup with the Golden Knights in 2023, when he was also named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In 102 career postseason games, Marchessault has 76 points (36 goals, 40 assists) and a plus-37 rating. Clearly his lack of size (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) does not deter Marchessault when the games get more difficult.

In his Conn Smythe-winning playoff run, he notched 25 points in 22 games, was a plus-17, and scored three game-winning goals. The Rangers certainly could have used a performance like that this postseason, when they fell short again.

Related: Here’s how Rangers free-agency plan may not be what’s expected

Rangers could target free agent Jonathan Marchessault

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Vegas Golden Knights
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, if the Rangers are willing to pursue Marchessault, they must do so with some caution. He is 33 years old, meaning New York needs to be careful with how much term is on the contract. Additionally, it would not be wise to overspend for the forward, as his production will inevitably start to decline in years to come.

Marchessault’s expiring contract had a cap hit of $5 million, which was a bargain. He’s going to be looking at a raise, how much of one will determine if the Rangers will be in or out on him in free agency.

However, if the Rangers can manage to sign Marchessault to a two- or three-year contract, even in the $7 million per range, it would be a great move, especially with Igor Shesterkin and Alexis Lafreniere remaining on extremely team-friendly contracts for one more season and the salary cap driving upward the next few seasons.

After moving on from Barclay Goodrow’s $3.6 million contract, and with the salary cap rising to $88 million next season, the Rangers have some more breathing room. They are projected to have roughly $13.7 million in cap space, with decisions still to make on restricted free agents Ryan Lindgren and Braden Schneider.

With one of the biggest boxes for Chris Drury to check being a top-six right wing, it would not be a bad idea to pull the trigger on a player like Marchessault, even if somewhat a risky move depending on the price and the term. However, it’s not an impossible signing to pull off, and would appear to be easier than trying to sign other top forwards like Jake Guentzel or Sam Reinhart.

All in all, the Rangers need to get this one right. They must find someone who can be a mainstay on the first line and produce consistently. If they don’t, they might be in line to fall short of the Stanley Cup yet again next season.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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