Haggerty: Bruins, Marchand keep on winning

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Haggerty: Bruins, Marchand keep on winning

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.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs.

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Morning Skate: Do Caps have mental block come playoff time?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while thinking about and praying for the people of Manchester, England. It’s obviously an evil, cowardly act to bomb any public place, but to do it at a concert filled with women and children is the lowest of the low.

*The Capitals players are acknowledging that there’s some kind of mental block with the Stanley Cup playoffs. CSN Mid-Atlantic has all the details.

*It’s been a very odd postseason for the NHL where there are so many non-traditional teams still alive with the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Fina, and the Ottawa Senators fighting for their lives in the Eastern Conference Final. On that note, there is a ton of disappointment at the empty seats at the Canadian Tire Centre for Ottawa’s home games in the playoffs. It sounds like there are going to be empty seats tonight for a do-or-die Game 6 in Ottawa. That is an embarrassment for a Canadian city that’s supposed to pride itself on their love of hockey. Let’s hope the Senators fans have a last-minute surge to buy tickets and show some appreciation for a Senators team that’s given the Ottawa fans a totally unexpected ride through the postseason this spring. I mean, Erik Karlsson at the top of his game is worth the price of admission all by himself.  

*The Pittsburgh Penguins have the Senators on the ropes, and it’s been an impressive showing given that they’re doing it without Kris Letang.

*Pro Hockey Talk has the ownership for the St. Louis Blues giving their GM Doug Armstrong a vote of confidence.

*Another early exit from the playoffs is going to start making some players expendable on the New York Rangers roster.

*Here’s a good piece on how David Poile built the Nashville Predators, who have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time. Give credit where it’s due: He manned up and made a big move dealing away Shea Weber straight up for PK Subban. It’s really worked for Music City as they’ve stepped to the next level.

*Speaking of Nashville’s rise this spring in a wide open Western Conference, Pekka Rinne has silenced the critics he might have had by carrying his team to the Cup Final.

*For something completely different: Boston law enforcement is on high alert after the bombing of the Ariana Grande concert in the UK.

 

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right.