Life is good for Jonathan Marchessault.
The former Lightning forward is thriving for the expansion Vegas Golden Knights, which recently signed the undrafted forward to a six-year, $30 million deal. Marchessault's wife is expecting their third child, a son, in April.
But Marchessault, 27, admits his brief time in Tampa Bay (2014-16) is a big reason why he's got to this point in his career.
"It started here," Marchessault said before facing the Lightning Thursday. "I was just trying to find my way as a hockey player in the NHL and they gave me a chance. I couldn't be more happy for sure."
The Lightning acquired Marchessault from Columbus in 2014, the wing even appearing in the Eastern Conference Final that year for Tampa Bay against the Rangers. After being one of the last cuts at 2015 training camp – and clearing waivers – Marchessault had a breakout season (seven goals, 18 assists in 45 games).
The Lightning wanted to re-sign Marchessault as an unrestricted free agent that summer, offering him a similar two-year, one-way deal as Florida. But the Panthers promised more playing time.
"It was a similar offer," Marchessault said. "It was just a question of playing games. I was at the time in my career when I just needed to be in the lineup and if I was there, I'd make the most of it. Florida was telling me I could play on the third, fourth line to start and Tampa couldn't say that.
"It was a tough decision to go away for sure."
It is crazy to think where Marchessault was just over two years ago, living in a downtown Tampa hotel with his wife and two young children. The couple would put their young son in bed, then sleep on the sofa bed with their daughter. Marchessault said they just made it work.
"Just stick with it, stay positive," Marchessault said. "And good things happen."
More from morning skate: Former Lightning defenseman Jason Garrison, taken by Vegas in the June expansion draft, was called up by the Golden Knights but won't play tonight. Garrison, who has spent most of this season with AHL Chicago, said it's just a pleasure to still be playing. Garrison, 33, said of all AHL cities, Chicago isn't a bad place to play, and he realizes the first-place Golden Knights have a really good team. Garrison spent the previous three seasons in Tampa Bay, admittedly surprised he got taken in the expansion draft. "You never know in this league – it can go either way for you at certain times," said Garrison, who has played just four games this season. "You just try to continue to move forward and put a smile on your face. Because it goes by quick." The Lightning will start Andrei Vasilevskiy tonight, with Marc Andre Fleury going for Vegas… Looks like Tampa Bay will go 12/6, with Cory Conacher back in and Andrej Sustr out as the seventh defenseman. The Lightning stuck with the same lines (Kunitz-Stamkos-Kucherov/Palat-Point-Johnson/Gourde-Namestnikov-Killorn/Conacher-Paquette-Callahan. Mikhail Sergachev ran point on the first power play with Anton Stralman leading the second.