Lightning 'deflated' when Jonathan Marchessault picked Panthers
When Jonathan Marchessault became an unrestricted free agent in July, the Lightning made a pitch to keep the forward.
In fact, Marchessault, 25, said Tampa Bay offered a similar two-year, one-way contract to what the Panthers did.
"It wasn't about money," he said.
It was about a chance to play. And Marchessault saw more potential in the Panthers, signing a two-year, $1.5 million deal. Marchessault might have been right, entering Tuesday's game at Amalie Arena as Florida's leading scorer (four points), while playing on a top line with future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr.
“I knew I was on a team (in Tampa Bay) that was hard to break into the lineup," Marchessault said. "They have such a good team and (the forwards) have been playing three years together. That was a big part of changing teams so I have a better opportunity.’’
Marchessault had eight goals and 19 points in 47 games over two seasons with the Lightning. His shoot-first style and engaging personality made him a favorite in the Lightning room. But after making an impact as a callup last winter, Marchessault often became a healthy scratch down the stretch, including the playoffs. He spent most of the season living in a hotel with his wife Alexandra and two kids, 2 1/2-year-old James and 1-year-old Victoria. Now Marchessault has settled into a place in Boca Raton, the Panthers offering stability.
"When he signed with Florida we were a little dejected,"coach Jon Cooper said. "Not only that he left us but that he went to Florida; he could’ve gone anywhere else...He’s one of those undersized guys so they have to do something a little bit better than the other guys and he’s done that,’’ Cooper said. “Unfortunately, I won’t be cheering for him tonight, but I’ll cheer for him the other (78) games.’’
More from morning skate: Ben Bishop will start in net for the Lightning, James Reimer for Florida... Tampa Bay's lineup will be the same, meaning defenseman Slater Koekkoek will be a healthy scratch for the third straight game. Cooper has said he doensn't like players sitting for lengthy periods, so would expect Koekkoek to make his season debut Thursday against Colorado...