Usually when you hear of a team giving up a prospect of young player, there is a reason behind it, often another bloated contract of a veteran who is making too much money on the decline of his career. Yet, for the Vegas Golden Knights, the team was able to make a deal with the Florida Panthers in which they got 26-year-old Jon Marchessault, a 30-goal scorer last year. The cost? Not a bloated contract of a 30-something player, but the contract of 26-year-old Reilly Smith, who himself is only a year from putting up 25 goals.
Smith is a former third-rounder who has flashed a ton of potential, but has failed to be consistent throughout his career. After putting up a great season in 2015-16, which included 25 goals and 25 assists and being the team’s top scorer that year in the playoffs, Smith was rewarded with a five year, $25MM extension just last year. Unfortunately, he only scored 15 goals last year and struggled just the like the team did. When the Panthers new administration came in, Smith was no longer in their plans and getting rid of his new contract to open up cap space to focus on more important players became a priority.
However, Smith could easily prove to be more than just a throw-in player. At 26 years old, Smith has plenty of more hockey left and he returns to his old coach, Gerard Gallant, who coached him during his 25-goal season. Now on an expansion team, Smith could easily pick up big minutes with few veterans on the team and the possibility that any of those veterans could be traded at any minute.
If Smith could return to form with Gallant’s help and put up a 50-point season like he did two years ago or in 2013-14, he could become a key piece to the team’s offense for years or, more likely, become a quality trade candidate in the future. If Smith can put up big numbers again this year, he could be moved much easier in a year or two when he has just three or four years remaining on his contract.