According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Florida Panthers will not stop at just losing one top-nine forward in expansion. While it has been confirmed that Jonathan Marchessault was the Expansion Draft pick by the Vegas Golden Knights, Reilly Smith has also been informed that he will be Las Vegas-bound.
While the details of the deal have not yet been announced, there are two possibilities for this side deal with Vegas. The first is that Smith was thrown in alongside the Marchessault pick to keep the Knights from selecting another exposed player, likely defenseman Jason Demers. Many were surprised when Florida protected four defenseman, leaving many forwards open for the taking, including Marchessault and Smith, but the move would make more sense if that was what was required for Vegas to ignore Demers. The other potential deal could be independent from expansion, as it has been reported that the Panthers may not have wanted to re-sign Marchessault anyway and thus their protection scheme was logical. In this scenario, Smith may be going to Vegas alongside a yet-to-be-named draft pick or prospect. Although Smith is a two-time 20-goal scorer and just 26 years old, he is due to begin a five-year, $25MM contract next season after scoring a career-low 37 points in 2016-17.
Vegas will be the fourth NHL team for Smith, who was originally dealt to the Boston Bruins as part of the Tyler Seguin deal. The Bruins encountered the same pattern with Smith as Florida did: after a great first season, the production fell off in year two and he was traded before beginning an expensive extension. Perhaps head coach Gerard Gallant, who enjoyed coaching Smith in Florida before he was fired earlier this season, sees something that others don’t and can make the most of his $25MM deal. However, hold your opinions for two years from now, because history shows that he’ll likely have a strong first campaign in Las Vegas before the real test begins in 2018-19.