Marchessault's future in Vegas is 1 key issue among many offseason questions for the Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb was asked Tuesday if he could imagine not having Jonathan Marchessault in the Golden Knights' locker room next season.

“No,” he said succinctly, letting that word hang in the air before more fully answering the question two days after the Knights were eliminated in the first round of the NHL playoffs by Dallas.

McNabb, who was sitting next to Marchessault, could've stopped at no. His short initial answer more than conveyed the feelings among teammates regarding a player who epitomizes what it means to be a “Golden Misfit,” the name the original Knights bestowed on themselves.

Marchessault, who went from undrafted to the Conn Smythe Trophy winner last year as the playoff MVP, is one of just five players remaining from that 2017-18 team. The winger is an unrestricted free agent who just put together his finest season, scoring 42 goals, only one shy of William Karlsson's team record.

“I've done everything I can to stay here,” Marchessault said. “I know I'm a big part of that organization. I've proved it along the years. I would love to stay. It's my home. I've been part of the guys that we started this with. It's the most proud thing I've done in my life, professionally for sure. I'm happy to be a Golden Knight. I would like to be the rest of my life, but it's not necessarily in my control.”

Marchessault said he spoke with general manager Kelly McCrimmon earlier Tuesday and the GM told him he would like to bring him back.

“It depends if this is important to them or not,” Marchessault said of whether a deal gets done. “I want to be in an organization that wants me. I have a couple of years left. I don't play it for fun. I play it because I want to win. I want to be in a place that's going to help me win.”

McCrimmon spoke glowingly of Marchessault.

“He had a career year, so he's done everything possible to put himself in a good position,” McCrimmon said. “We really like the player, and his value extends beyond what you see on the ice. He's an important guy in our dressing room, so there's certainly a real strong willingness from both sides to have real good discussions. That's what we're going to work on.”

Whether the 33-year-old Marchessault returns is not the only significant offseason story facing the Golden Knights.

Forward William Carrier is another “misfit” who's an unrestricted free agent, and the Knights also have to make decisions on UFAs Chandler Stephenson, Michael Amadio and Anthony Mantha at forward and Alec Martinez on defense.

Mantha was one of three trade-deadline acquisitions, but his future appears shaky with the Golden Knights after he was healthy scratched during part of the playoffs. Carrier, Stephenson and Martinez would represent a true turning of the page if they don't return given Vegas parted ways with only Reilly Smith among the regulars after last year's Cup run.

The next few months will determine what kind of team Vegas puts on the ice next season, and the Golden Knights have never shied away from taking big swings.

They could still be playing, but lost a 2-0 series lead to the Stars and fell in seven games, ending the Knights' chances to repeat. A loss the players are still processing.

“I'll probably take a week or so, but then I'll start watching the playoffs again,” goalie Adin Hill said. “It's kind of hard seeing teams out there that we feel like we were better than if we got to our game. I'm not going to make any excuses, but I never felt like we got to where our game can be. Last year, we saw what we can do in this locker room. I think you can argue we might've had a better team on paper this year.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy didn't dispute that, but noted the difficulty of establishing chemistry with several injured players returning to the lineup as the playoffs were beginning.

“That's not an excuse and you can't use it, but the reality is we didn't have a lot of time to build some of that chemistry,” Cassidy said. “So maybe your offense does come (over time) because you've got chemistry, so I think that worked against us late in the year. I think all our players, too, believed we had a great group of guys that could do it again.”

The Golden Knights were in an even worse place two years ago when they missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Coming up short fueled winning the championship a year later.

Vegas can use this early postseason exit in a similar way.

“I think it should fuel all of us,” center Jack Eichel said. “There's only one team that's satisfied at the end of the year. We happened to be that team last year.”