Panthers lose Marchessault, trade Smith to Golden Knights

Are the Cats reloading or rebuilding?

As expected, once its confounding protection list was revealed on Sunday, the Florida Panthers lost last season’s leading goalscorer Jonathan Marchessault to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft.

Adding what many fans of the club will perceive to be insult to injury, the Cats shipped streaky forward Reilly Smith, who scored 25 goals in 2015-16 and 15 least year, to Vegas for a fourth-round draft in 2018.

With 45 goals from the 2016-17 roster suddenly gone in an instant, the question now is how do the Panthers go about replacing it?

Expect the Cats re-sign Jaromir Jagr to a new deal, perhaps even as early as today to fill one of the open right wing slots in Florida’s top-six.

Beyond that, who knows?

Will the Panthers, currently $20M under the salary cap, promote from within and try to win on the cheap next year?

Has general manager Dale Tallon cleared the decks to make a run at T.J. Oshie in free agency? Oshie, the top forward prize in what is considered a pretty weak free-agent class won’t come cheap.

Or is Tallon going to make a big trade to further reshape the club, which went from Atlantic Division champion to also ran in the space of one disturbing season under Tom Rowe.

The Cats are rumored to be trying to make a deal with Montreal that would see Alex Galchenyuk end up in Sunrise.

If that’s not the case, this weekend’s draft in Chicago would be the place for Tallon to not only restock the club’s prospect base, but to work some magic to bolster his NHL roster that restores the faith of a perplexed fan base.

Did the Panthers botch the expansion draft?

We’ll see98