Marchessault left Lightning for 'better opportunity'
Jonathan Marchessault enjoyed his experience with the Lightning.
Even as he was a healthy scratch during last year's playoffs, the 5-foot-9 forward insisted he'd love to stay.
But Marchessault, 25, ended up leaving in free agency, signing a two-year, $1.5 million deal with Atlantic Division rival Panthers in July. As Marchessault returns to Amalie Arena tonight for an exhibition game against his former team, he said playing time was a factor in the switch.
"I wouldn't say it was about money or anything like that," Marchessault said in Sunrise before heading to Tampa. "I wanted a better opportunity to be in the lineup every night and to be able to maybe have a chance to go on the third line."
Marchessault spent parts of three seasons in the Lightning orgnanization, appearing in 46 NHL games. After appearing in the 2015 Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers, Marchessault helped provide a scoring boost to an injury-depleted Lightning forward group last season, with seven goals (and 18 points) in just 45 games.
But as the Lightning got healthy, Marchessault saw his role, and minutes, dwindle, playing in just five of 17 playoff games.
"I would usually be on the fourth line or some nights they would go with 11 forwards and seven (defensemen) and I'd be in the stands," Marchessault said. "It was a good start for me, but I just wanted to think of myself here in that situation and take my career here."
Veteran center Brian Boyle was happy for Marchessault to get a two-year deal, especially being a father of two. "We're going to miss him," Boyle said. Marchessault said he won't play any harder against Tampa Bay than any other team, but it'll be fun to play in Amalie again.
"It's always tough to see players that you watch come up through your system and do well and leave," coach Jon Cooper said. "That's where this game becomes a little bit of a business.
"But privately, we'll be cheering for Marchy, just not against us."