Alec Martinez, Chandler Stephenson, Jonathan Marchessault, Michael Amadio, Vegas Golden Knights

Golden Knights’ Early 2024 Free Agency Preview

Can we bask in the glow of the Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup victory a little longer?

Apparently, the answer is no. Training camp is still about a month from opening and reports are already casting doubt on pending free agent Jonathan Marchessault’s future with the club. With Reilly Smith traded away this summer, now talk of Marchessault’s pending departure has offered a clear signal that the championship honeymoon period is over.

Here’s a look at the Golden Knights’ collection of 2024 unrestricted free agents and what may lie ahead for them. While this summer saw relatively little turnover with so many players still under contract, the summer of 2024 could be a very different story.

Jonathan Marchessault

Marchessault has had an incredible tenure in Vegas, capped off by his Conn Smythe-winning heroics in last year’s postseason. However, based on the organization’s history of cold, business-like roster management, there’s reason to wonder what kind of commitment the Golden Knights will show a player who will be 33 and set to enter his 12th NHL season.

Jonathan Marchessault Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Compounding the front office’s unsentimental track record is the way they’ve handled Marchessault’s pending free agency to date. In an interview with TVA Sports, the Quebec native admitted that there had been no contract extension talks yet. He also opened up about having something of a rocky relationship with head coach Bruce Cassidy at times last season.

For now, there’s no reason for fans to worry. Marchessault did clarify that his relationship with Cassidy has improved and there is plenty of time to get a deal done before July 1, 2024. Still, this summer represented the perfect time for an extension and now questions about whether another Vegas original will be headed for an unceremonious exit will only grow louder.

Chandler Stephenson

Another reason why Marchessault might not be long for the club is Chandler Stephenson. Signed to a team-friendly contract that still only pays him $2.75 million this season, Stephenson should be in line to make far more than that on his next deal, especially after the Golden Knights re-signed Ivan Barbashev to a five-year, $25 million deal, and Stephenson scored 20 more points last season.

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Given Stephenson’s age (he will have just turned 30 next summer) and consistent production (he has 129 points over the previous two seasons, more than any other Golden Knight), he will likely be a higher priority to re-sign than Marchessault. Interestingly, another standout season alongside Mark Stone would be a boon to Vegas, but it would also give the former Washington Capital that much more leverage in contract talks.

Alec Martinez

What does Alec Martinez have left in the tank? That will be an important question this season and an even more significant one heading into 2024 free agency. The three-time Cup champion sits just shy of 900 career NHL games, including the regular season and playoffs. He’s also a 36-year-old who has missed more than 60 games over the past two seasons (most of which came in 2021-22, but still).

Alec Martinez Vegas Golden Knights
Alec Martinez, Vegas Golden Knights (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

On one hand, all that wear and tear might suggest that the Golden Knights will part ways with the blueliner at season’s end, if not sooner. On the other hand, few clubs are as well equipped to lessen the load of a veteran defenseman heading into the twilight of his career. If Martinez is open to taking a significant reduction from his current $5.25 million cap hit, the club might be open to finding a smaller role for him within a deep defense unit.

William Carrier

By all accounts, the four-year, $5.6 million extension signed by William Carrier in 2020 seemed like a pretty easy negotiation between two parties interested in a reunion. Here we are again, and not much has changed. Carrier remains a reliable, hard-nosed fourth-line grinder, and while he potted a surprising 16 goals last season, that offensive prowess likely can’t be counted on again.

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Carrier’s next contract could be modeled after former Golden Knight Ryan Reaves’ recent deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Although Reaves remains quite limited at this stage of his career, his toughness and positive locker-room presence carried sufficient value to net him a three-year contract. Likewise, Carrier boasts enough intangibles to be more than just an easily replaceable depth forward. With more offensive ability and at a much younger age, the 28-year-old should get a bigger deal but will likely share a similar ‘lower cap hit, longer term’ contract framework.

Michael Amadio

After a breakthrough 16-goal campaign and an impactful playoff run (five goals and five assists in 16 games), Michael Amadio could be well-positioned to take advantage of free agency with another strong season. After being claimed off waivers at the start of the 2021-22 season, the former Maple Leaf signed a two-year deal with Vegas for the same near-minimum cap hit that he’s earned throughout his six-year career. Now, he looks poised for a raise, whether with Vegas or another team.

Michael Amadio Vegas Golden Knights
Michael Amadio, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Entering his seventh NHL season, Amadio has carved out an important top-nine role and will be counted on to infuse some scoring into the bottom-six forward corps. Furthermore, if Marchessault does get moved at some point, or if Stone’s back issues flare up again, there could be a place for the 27-year-old in the top-six. Either way, a strong season with the Golden Knights would go a long way in helping Amadio cash in next summer.

Ben Hutton

If we’re being honest, Ben Hutton simply isn’t going to be a free-agent priority. While the 30-year-old comported himself perfectly fine in a depth defensive role over 31 games last season, he only appeared in two playoff games. This season, opportunities to be anything more than the team’s seventh defenseman will likely only come with injuries to those higher up the depth chart.

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No disrespect to Hutton, but he isn’t a hard player to replace. This offseason, Erik Gustafsson, Cal Foote, Travis Dermott, Steve Santini, Caleb Jones, Chase Priskie, Victor Mete, Robert Hagg, Brady Lyle, Connor Carrick, and Will Butcher were just some of the free-agent defensemen earning close to $800,000 to change teams without earning a pay increase. If Hutton doesn’t come back next year, the Golden Knights will surely find someone Hutton-like.

As it stands, the club has 16 players signed for the 2024-25 season for just under $71 million. The situation will likely look very different once general manager Kelly McCrimmon and the rest of the front office get down to business nearly a year from now, but it’s never too early to look ahead to what’s on the horizon.

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