By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
Even when nobody is playing hockey games, the Bruins are winning.
The contract status of Brad Marchand was the only potential skunk at the Black and Gold lawn party this summer, but that was taken care of Wednesday afternoon.
After several months of little progress, Marchand signed a two-year, 5 million deal with the Bs after a 20-goal rookie season in which he elevated himself to playoff hero, with 19 points in 25 postseason games.
From the get-go I was never going to miss a day of training camp," Marchand said. "I never wanted that. I wanted to be here the first day and show that I wanted to be here. I wanted to be in the full camp with the rest of the guys. Im very happy it didnt come down to that and that we were able to get the deal done.
Marchand was well on his way to becoming a cult hero as the Honey Badger a nickname coined by Andrew Ference during the playoff run but the diminutive scrapper cinched it all with a Stanley Cup Finals Game 7 for the ages.
That went along with the lethal penalty-killing that led to five shorthanded goals and a plus-25 on the ice through a season split equally as a fourth-line forward and a second-line spark plug.
That kind of versatility and mixture of skill and grit is something that doesnt exactly grow on hockey trees. Its also amplified with the knowledge that Marchand wants to keep getting better skating alongside the ultimate effort player in Patrice Bergeron.
Marchand and agent Wade Arnott were looking for something with a longer term for much of the summer, and hoped to get a four-year contract that would take the scrappy winger to 27 years old and unrestricted free agency.
A source with knowledge of the talks also indicated to CSNNE.com that Marchand and Co. rejected a three-year offer for 6.5 million on the table when longer-term deals were being discussed.
We talked about a whole bunch of different terms, but we feel this was the right fit for both sides, said general manager Peter Chiarelli. We found that this term was best for both parties. It gives the team some security and it also gives Brad the chance to come back and negotiate again in a couple of years. It was something that was a fit here.
These second deals coming off the entry-level deals are hard deals to negotiate on both sides. Theyre just sticky. There are sticking points along in the negotiators. Its an area in the CBA thats just tough negotiating time with a player of that status. Brad had a terrific year and a terrific playoff. Its not a reflection on the Bruins or Brad, its just where Brad was a player within the CBA. You see it happening with other players right across the league.
But instead the Bruins were able to avoid the kind of ludicrous six-year deal handed to James Van Riemsdyk by the Philadelphia Flyers before the player has truly accomplished anything worthy of the term or salary. Give Marchand credit for signing something a little more team-friendly and waiting until next time to rake in the big bucks.
It took a little while, but Im very happy to have signed Brad to two years. He was a terrific performer in the playoffs and a clutch performer, said Chiarelli. He just loves to play. He plays on the edge and were really excited to have him with the Bruins for two more years.
I told Brad today that at end of the last year he told me he was going to score 20 goals and he scored more than that. I told him I was proud of him and he deserved this. Hes a good kid and were happy to have him in the mix.
Speaking of the next time, the Bs will also get another crack at Marchand in restricted free agency two years from now when the skater has arbitration rights, and can continue to match anything offered by another NHL team should the agitator keep developing the hands, speed and tenacity into a viable offensive package.
Theres always room for every player to improve, said Marchand. I think a big part that I want to improve is my defensive game. You watch guys like Bergeron and David Krejci and theyre a couple of the top guys on the team and in the league. Theyre so defensively strong. Thats a big area I want to improve, but you can always improve in every area of the game.
Did Marchand want to make any grand projections for his upcoming season?
No . . . thats okay, said Marchand. Ill just try and work hard.
Paired with Bergeron and perhaps either Rich Peverley or Tyler Seguin, its possible the surface has barely been touched for No. 63s potential and what hes able to provide. His ability to elevate in big spots has already been proven after one NHL season, and the sandpaper, in-your-face aggressiveness is a unique characteristic among a group of Bs that are often reactive more than proactive.
The Marchand trait of sparking a little trouble to get the rest of the team physically engaged is something that was sorely lacking in the previous three years prior, and really helped the Bs team fulfill their potential.
The combative personality combined with Marchands huge Stanley Cup Finals performance made him a deserving recipient of a contract extension somewhere between the deals handed out to Teddy Purcell and Logan Couture.
So Marchand is deserving of the money, and thats exactly what he got.
The deal is a gigantic victory for the Bruins going up against an agent that helped craft Phil Kessels escape from Boston two years ago. Arnott is renowned for taking up every last nickel on the negotiating table, and that didnt happen this time around with a player who didnt want to leave Boston.
Marchands 2.5 million cap hit leaves Boston with roughly 5 million in cap space prior to the season, and will give them upwards of 9 million once Marc Savard is ruled out for the season.
So now Chiarelli and assistant GM Don Sweeney have locked up every key Bs player for the upcoming season, have nearly 10 million in cap space for an epic trade deadline acquisition if a little talent jolt is needed and boast some excellent health along with a signed "Honey Badger" headed into the hockey year.
Its almost unfair for a hockey club that already starts the NHL season at the top of the mountain, but the Cup seems to just keep on giving.