Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Marchand's Hart Trophy candidacy is very real

Haggerty: Marchand's Hart Trophy candidacy is very real

With each passing game, the unlikely Hart Trophy candidacy grows for Bruins left winger Brad Marchand.

Marchand picked up the second hat trick of his career in a 6-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Monday night at the Rogers Centre and powered home the tying and winning goals in the comeback for the Black and Gold to kick off their Western Canada trip. 

Marchand is tied with Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead with 35 goals and is tied with Crosby for second in the NHL with a career-high 74 points after his four-point effort Monday night.

The real jewel of the third-period goal explosion was the game-winner, where he pick-pocketed Henrik Sedin and stole the puck from the Canucks captain at the half-wall, dangled it through Alex Edler’s legs on his way to the net and then flipped a backhanded bid past goalie Ryan Miller. 

It was the kind of game-winning, tone-setting play that you typically see from an MVP candidate and it’s exactly the kind of thing Marchand has done on a regular basis while scoring 25 goals in his last 28 games bringing the Black and Gold offense to life.

One of constants of so many of those goals has been the 5-foot-9, 181-pound Marchand attacking the net and going to the danger areas despite usually being the smallest guy out on the ice. He also has tied Patrice Bergeron for the B’s team lead with his seventh game-winning goal of the season. Combine that with the improved vision and puck awareness that’s allowed him to rack up a career-high 39 assists this season, and you have an all-around, elite player in the prime of his career creating an extremely worthy follow-up to last season's “career year” with 37 goals.

“You have to learn to adapt and change and you also pick up different techniques that guys use over the years and find different ways to create some space. Now with the game being quicker and the guys being a little more agile, it’s tough to continually cut back on them in the corner, especially most teams swarm down there and have three or four guys,” said Marchand after Saturday’s win over the Flyers. “You know the big thing is to just try to get the puck out of the area and either change sides, go behind the net and try to find some space. Stuff happens quickly out there and you learn to read plays a little bit better than maybe you did early on and it could be a mix of a few things.”

Clearly, it’s going to be a bit of an uphill battle in Hart Trophy voting for a sometimes-pest in Marchand who's gone way over the edge, and paid the price in suspensions, in his past history in Boston. Fellow elite NHL players, like the aforementioned Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Connor McDavid and Brent Burns, are also posting excellent seasons for playoff-caliber teams. None of them has the complicated, checkered past that Marchand does in a league that sometimes wants everything to be a little too squeaky clean.

But Marchand is on pace for 42 goals and 88 points, has spearheaded this Bruins surge to the playoffs and has raised his profile with Team Canada and NHL All-Star appearances already this season. Provided he can finish strong in the final 14 games, the Nose Face Killah is fully deserving of consideration for the Hart Trophy given to the Most Valuable Player in the league and he’ll get it from this humble hockey writer in a wonderful NHL success story of a guy that’s gone from fourth-line annoyance to elite MVP candidate in seven transformative seasons.

The Hart Trophy candidacy for Boston’s trouble-making Marchand might be a little surprising, but it’s very, very real at this point. 

Morning Skate: Jagr looking for love on Tinder...from NHL teams

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Morning Skate: Jagr looking for love on Tinder...from NHL teams

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while really interested to see what Don Sweeney is going to do now.

*Here’s a pretty funny Tinder profile created for Jaromir Jagr as he’s looking for love in the form of NHL employment at this date late in the summer.

*John Tavares is in no rush whatsoever to re-sign with the New York Islanders and that may not be a great sign for them if they don’t really clean up a few things including their rink situation.

*The NHL doesn’t have an NCAA loophole problem, according to the Hockey News. I don’t have a big issue with it right now either, but it could really become a problem if every single drafted college player begins following this path to free agency.

*Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland is acting as the Golden Knights welcome wagon for all the new players coming into Sin City for the expansion franchise.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s my radio hit with Winnipeg yesterday talking about the very comparable situations between Leon Draisaitl and David Pastrnak. This conversation took place hours before Draisaitl was signed by the Oilers, but I maintain what I said all along about Pastrnak getting paid as a result of this.

*Logan Couture and his jaw are fully healed and ready to go even his teeth are still pretty sore after last spring’s massive collision in the playoffs.

*If you’re interested in a wide-ranging conversation about the Vancouver Canucks, here is your story on the Interwebs today.

*For something completely different: The Defenders are coming in the next few days to Netflix and I’m pretty damn excited about it.

Haggerty: Draisaitl deal means Pastrnak is about to get paid in big way

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Haggerty: Draisaitl deal means Pastrnak is about to get paid in big way

The final price tag on David Pastrnak’s contract just went up.

With the news on Wednesday that 21-year-old Leon Draisaitl had signed an eight-year, $68 million extension with the Edmonton Oilers that pays him an average of $8.5 million per season, the high bar has been set for the 21-year-old Pastrnak. It will be difficult to find a better comparable for the dynamic Bruins right winger than the center/winger Draisaitl as they sit at the exact same points in their respective NHL careers.

As Jeff Copetas laid out on twitter, the numbers between the fellow first round picks make a convincing, almost airtight case that they would be comparable players in negotiations:

So what does this mean for Pastrnak and the Bruins now that the ink is dried on Draisaitl’s deal, and Peter Chiarelli is once again holding an impact over Boston’s salary cap situation?

Well, they’re going to have to pay more than the $6 million per season they were hoping to get Pastrnak for on a long-term contract. While Pastrnak may not get exactly the same deal from the Bruins that Draisaitl earned from the Oilers, there is every possibility the 21-year-old is poised to become the highest paid player on the entire team coming off a breakout season where he posted 34 goals and 70 points.  

A fair market value contract for Pastrnak could be the exact same eight-year, $60 million contract that Vladimir Tarasenko signed with the St. Louis Blues a couple of years ago. If he really wants to maximize his situation, the Czech right winger would be well within his rights to hold out for $8 million per season for as long as it takes the Bruins to decide they can go there.

It’s a massive deal for a player coming off their entry-level contract with one truly excellent season under their belt, and a big bet that Pastrnak will continue to improve his puck management, his two-way game and his consistency to go along with the electric offensive skills.

But let’s be honest about Pastrnak here. He’s not Phil Kessel, Dougie Hamilton or Tyler Seguin in the best way possible. All of those young, elite Bruins players had issues that ultimately doomed their careers in Boston whether it was Kessel and Hamilton both wanting to play elsewhere, or Seguin treating his career with the Bruins like it was a never-ending episode of The Bachelor.

Pastrnak is committed to reaching his potential as he showed a summer ago by getting bigger and stronger in an effort that paid dividends on the ice, and his carefree, exuberant personality makes him very well-liked in his own dressing room. He wants to play for the Bruins for the long term, and he again showed that by traveling with the Bruins organization to China this summer to promote the Original Six hockey club.

There’s also the simple fact that the Bruins don’t have anybody in their organization that can replace his speed, offensive skills and ability to break open games with his scoring. Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy are the future building blocks for this Bruins franchise for the next 10 years, and the Bruins need to view it that way when they’re investing in them as players.

So the 21-year-old checks off all the boxes in terms of the Bruins feeling good about making a sizeable long term investment, and Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs confirmed on WEEI Wednesday afternoon that the B’s want a six plus year deal with the right wing wunderkind. He’s also exactly the perfect speed, skill and game-breaking fit for a Bruins organization that’s changing their philosophy to a hockey club comprised of more skill/speed over size/physicality.

In a perfect world the Bruins could have signed Pastrnak to a contract that would have fit in with their internal salary structure, and slotted him in behind Brad Marchand ($6.125M), Patrice Bergeron ($6.875M) and David Krejci ($7.25M) among the forwards. But that kind of contract was dead in the water once elite young players like Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Ryan Johansen signed massive contract extensions earlier this summer, and it’s become totally unrealistic with the Draisaitl deal coming down in Edmonton.

The good news is that the Bruins have a month before the start of NHL training camp and they have $10 million in salary cap space. They are firmly in a position to get something done with Pastrnak in a way that’s not going to negatively impact him or the franchise, and Don Sweeney now knows the parameters they’re working within. Now it’s just going to cost the Bruins a little bit more than they originally intended, but it’s no secret that 21-year-old goal-scorers with elite offensive skills get paid sooner rather than later in the NHL these days. 

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