As the sun rose over the desert on July 1, Jonathan Marchessault knew he had a decision to make.

By 9 a.m. Las Vegas time, the Stanley Cup champion had officially become an unrestricted free agent. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait too long to land with a new club.

Fielding a five-year, $27.5 million offer from Nashville Predators General Manager Barry Trotz, Marchessault put pen to paper and cemented his future with the team from Music City, a future that holds plenty of excitement for Marchessault and Smashville alike.

“Nashville was always one of the teams that I liked the most, it was just a matter of seeing if they had interest,” Marchessault said via Zoom on Wednesday. “Obviously, I kind of knew on June 30 that Vegas was not going to do much for me. So after that, it was time… Nashville was definitely the best of both worlds. It’s one of the best cities in the NHL, and also a team that wants to win, and those were the two things that I wanted.”

Marchessault Talks Signing with Nashville

On the other side of the table, Marchessault brings a lot of what the Predators wanted too.

The three-time 30-goal scorer and Vegas’ all-time franchise leader in goals (192), assists (225) and points (417) led the Golden Knights and was tied for 11th in the NHL in goals with a career-high 42 last season; he also led Vegas in points with 69 (42g-27a), the second-most in a campaign in his career. After leading all playoff skaters in goals (13) and finishing second in points (25) during the Golden Knights’ run to the 2023 Stanley Cup, Marchessault became the first undrafted player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy since Wayne Gretzky in 1988.

Nashville’s offensively-minded system under Head Coach Andrew Brunette will no doubt reap the benefits and Marchessault is already eager to prove it.

"It just fits the way I like to play,” Marchessault said. “I'm a hard-working kind of guy, and I want to help my team win some hockey games. That's something that I take a lot of pride doing. With the lineup that they had last year, I thought they did amazing. Just the fact that they went to the playoffs and did some damage against a pretty good team, the future is promising, and I just want to go help the Preds achieve their goal."

Marchessault won’t be arriving in the Music City by himself, either.

As the 33-year-old forward finalized his terms with Nashville on Monday, whispers of another potential deal with former teammate and two-time Stanley Cup champion Steven Stamkos reached Marchessault’s camp.

Bypassing the rumors and speculation, Marchessault went straight to the source and dialed his former teammate of two seasons.

“I was like, ‘Hey, are you signing in Nashville?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I was just like, ‘Oh, me too.’” Marchessault smiled. “After that, it was all perfect. We're going to go through the process of looking for homes, looking at schools and all that. That's just kind of how it worked out.”

Their off-ice chemistry still fresh as it was nine years ago, time will tell how much it’ll translate on the ice when the pair of prolific goal-scorers make their debuts in Gold and Navy in a few short months.

Marchessault, among many others, is already feeling optimistic.

“I’ve been able to play with a lot of good players in my career, and Steven is definitely going to be up there,” Marchessault said. "He achieved a lot of things with the Lightning, he’s done a lot and it's quite impressive, the player that he is today. And hopefully we can come in and help the team. It’s definitely a game-changer, and I think Nashville should be really excited to have him there on their side.”

Modesty notwithstanding, Nashville should be plenty excited to have Marchessault too.

After all, the Cup champion and veteran of 638 career NHL games will soon join a roster now boasting four different Stanley Cup winners - himself, Stamkos, Ryan O’Reilly and Luke Schenn - all of whom understand what it takes to reach the ultimate goal.

“Steven and Ryan and Luke, they can probably tell you about it, but when you win, when you taste winning a championship, it's addictive,” Marchessault said. “I definitely want to do it again, and I think everybody has the same goal here.”