Agent: Marchand deal 'no sure thing' before camp

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Agent: Marchand deal 'no sure thing' before camp

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
So whats the hold-up with the Brad Marchand contract negotiations anyway?

Its become the biggest and really the only question mark of the summer for the Bruins with so many pieces locked into place on the Stanley Cup winning roster. Normally the Bs front office is excellent at taking care of lingering contracts early in the process, but Marchands status has remained unresolved through the entire summer.

Marchand was a rookie revelation for the Bruins with 21 goals during the regular season along with a key role as agitator that had really been missing from the roster makeup in the past. The 23-year-old Marchand then exploded in the Stanley Cup playoffs for a franchise record 11 goals (and 19 points) during 25 postseason games including some very big performances for the 5-foot-8 Nova Scotia native against the Canucks in the Cup Finals.

Its no exaggeration to say Marchands bargaining profile grew exponentially in the playoffs.

But the pesky winger is still a restricted free agent with the Bruins able to match any offer sheets Marchand could potentially receive on the open market. That hasnt really materialized for Marchand and agent Wade Arnott since the player hit restricted free agency on July 1, but there is also no deal close to being in place between the Bruins and their diminutive cult hero.

Nothing to report, indicated Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli when asked about the negotiations.

Arnott could potentially summon bad vibes for Bruins fans given he was the exact same agent that helped broker Phil Kessels escape to Toronto as a restricted free agent two years ago.

But Marchand has consistently affirmed that he wants to remain in Black and Gold, and that he loves the city of Boston. There also doesnt appear to be a smitten suitor the same way the ArnottKessel teamhad Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago.

Arnott confirmed to CSNNE.com that talks are still ongoing with the Bruins, but they dont sound any closer to getting a deal done despite training camp sitting less than a month away.

Discussions with the Bruins remain open and ongoing regarding Brad, but nothing is imminent, said Arnott.

It doesnt appear that there will be any grand announcement during Marchands Cup Day parade in Halifax at the end of August, either. In fact, Arnott had an interesting response when asked if he was optimistic a deal will get done before Bruins training camp begins in earnest on Sept. 16.

Im hopeful, but its no sure thing, said Arnott, casting the slightest shed of doubt that Marchands signing is an automatic.

It sounds like theres still a chasm between the player and the team when it comes to determining his contract value. Marchand is a difficult case because hes really a one-year wonder that flashed and surprised as a rookie in Boston.

He became a cult hero and a fan favorite, and he also took celebrating the Cup victory to a new level in the weeks following Bostons win.

Marchand is a key cog in the Bs skating on a line with Patrice Bergeron and either Rich Peverley or Tyler Seguin next season, and the BergeronMarchand duo was dynamite all last season.

Theres little doubt the Bruins would have fallen short of the Cup without Marchands services, and hes now part of team building blocks moving forward. But the NHL is all about consistency, and thats something Marchand hasnt shown just yet after tasting a whole lot of success at a very young age in a role where he needs to constantly play on the edge.

There were times Claude Julien had pull back on the reins a bit with Marchand last season, and it remains to be seen whether its a young player maturing or just part of the player package with Marchand. Its a delicate balancing act, and its something that the Bruins want to see more of before showing Marchand the money.

The expiring CBA at the end of the upcoming season also isnt making things any easier for both sides attempting to forecast what the future NHL landscape will look like.

Indications are that the Bruins are looking to sign Marchand for a two-year deal in the 2.5 million per season neighborhood that would keep the Bs rabble-rouser a restricted free agent under Bostons control at the end of his next deal.

Restricted free agent Teddy Purcell busted out for 51 points during the regular season and 17 points in the playoffs, and resigned with the Lightning for two years and 4.72 million, which amounts to 2.36 million per season. Thats the closest comparable contract for Marchand given his age, accomplishments and classification as a free agent.

But it also makes perfect sense that Marchand and Co. are pushing for something in the four-year, 12 million range, and a contract that would set him up for unrestricted free agency once his deal has expired.

Sean Bergenheims four-year, 11 million deal with the Florida Panthers would appear close to the high end target for what Marchands camp is shooting for. Bergenheim also stepped up his game in the postseason just as Marchand did, but there are also a couple of significant, noted differences.

Bergenheim was an unrestricted free agent after turning 27 years old last season, and has proven himself in the NHL over four plus seasons. Bergenheim has also never come all that close to approaching 20 goals in a single season during his career, and its pretty clear Marchands ceiling is much higher after his one amazing season.

Theres also Joel Ward, who got four years and 12 million from the Washington Capitals despite never scoring 20 goals or topping 40 points in his career. Marchand did both of those at the ripe young age of 23 for the Bruins. Then there's Tomas Kopecky with his four-year, 12 million deal from the shopping spree mad Florida Panthers this summer.

In an elevated free agent market that saw a lot of drunken sailor money being thrown around to free agents after July 1, the market value for a player like Marchand has clearly risen. In fact, it may never be higher given his offensive production and his performance in the postseason.

The Bruins have roughly 7 million in cap space according to capgeek.com, but they will have upwards of 10 million in cap space once the Marc Savard situation is determined for this year. (Its expected Savard wont be able to pass the training camp physical and hell sit out the 2011-12 season barring some kind of 11th hour recovery.)

At the end of the day the Bruins hold most of the cards with Marchand unless another team steps up with an offer sheet. Marchands only real option save an getting an offer sheet from a team with some extra cap money kicking around thats also willing to give up valuable draft picks for his services would be to hold out in training camp and take his chances that the Bs cave once they begin to miss him.

The good news in all of this: Marchand loves Boston and loves being a member of the Bruins.

"I have no idea right now ... what the numbers are or how long it's going to be," Marchand told Steve Murphy of CTV Atlantic during an interview three weeks ago. "Right now, we're just kind of getting into things. It's been a long summer and people have been on vacation and enjoying the Cup so we're going to start getting into it pretty heavily here and hopefully we'll get something done soon."

When Murphy asked Marchand if he wanted to remain in Boston, Marchand unflinchingly replied in the affirmative.

"Of course I love it there," Marchand said.

The bad news in all of this: There hasnt been a lot of progress made since that interview, and theres no guarantee itll be done when camp opens up next month.

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

GAHS Podcast: Felger 'fearful' of where Bruins are headed

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GAHS Podcast: Felger 'fearful' of where Bruins are headed

In an all-CSN edition in the 15th episode of the Great American Hockey Show Podcast as co-hosts Joe Haggerty and Jimmy Murphy welcomed SportsNet Central anchor Mike Giardi to discuss the current B’s situation and conducted a wide-ranging interview with Sports Tonight host and Felger and Mazz co-host Michael Felger about his time covering the Bruins as a beat reporter, where he developed his love for hockey and his pathway toward becoming the most influential figure in the Boston sports media scene.

Perhaps most interesting from Giardi’s segment was his take that “nobody should be untouchable” on the Bruins roster, that includes franchise player and future captain Patrice Bergeron, if the return is good enough. Felger discussed who he’d move between Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask to change up the Bruins roster this summer and how gravely concerned he is about the health and well-being of the franchise coming off two seasons out of the playoffs.

“I’m fearful, of course. I think the passion of the Bruins fan base is still there. We could do four hours on the radio tomorrow talking about the Bruins, and totally bang it out with callers,” said Felger. “So the Bruins are so lucky that the fans are that passionate. But if it’s too long of a drought, we all lived through 2005 and 2006 coming out of the lockout. It was dark, and we have the capacity to go back there.”

For the full Great American Hockey Show podcast check it out below: 

No defense for blue-line shortcomings

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No defense for blue-line shortcomings

This is the fourth in a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

The Bruins had a master plan to upgrade the defense last summer. It quickly morphed into a dumpster fire.

After ultimately deciding they were unwilling to pay Dougie Hamilton an outlandish sum of money -- and coming to the conclusion that the young D-man simply didn’t want to play for Boston anymore -- they dealt him to the Calgary Flames for three draft picks. It was pennies-on-the-dollar value for a young, top-pairing defenseman, and a fear-based move given the threat of offer sheets that possibly loomed if Hamilton made it past July 1 without a new contract extension.

(They also torpedoed a better draft-pick package offer from their ex-general manager, Peter Chiarelli, by demanding Edmonton's young stud D-man Darnell Nurse, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The Bruins made the decision to move Hamilton after he and his camp ignored Boston’s multiple contract overtures. It was also apparent to those running the team that players like Hamilton and Reilly Smith weren’t meshing well with the rest of the Bruins core. 

(There's no second-guessing from this humble hockey writer about the jettisoning of Smith, despite his solid 25-goal season with the Florida Panthers: he was a soft player in that last year with Boston. The part of that move that should be regretted was immediately signing Jimmy Hayes to a three-year contract extension after closing the Smith-for-Hayes deal. But, again, that's neither here nor there.)

The problem for the Bruins after trading Hamilton was in the follow-through.

First they followed Chiarelli's troubling pattern of overpaying mid-level talent by handing Adam McQuaid a four-year, $11 million extension. Then they were unsuccessful in their attempts to move up in the first round of last summer’s draft and take either of the two collegians, Noah Hanifin or Zach Werenski, who projected as eventual No. 1 defensemen. They offered Hamilton and first-round draft choices; they also tried to use Martin Jones as a chip.

But whether new GM Don Sweeney thought he had a deal in place or not, things fell apart at the 11th hour. The Bruins did have three first-round picks, but they were in the middle of the round. In that position, they were unable to get an immediate difference-maker on defense.

The inability to land that young D-man (and potential heir apparent to Zdeno Chara) at last summer’s draft, or at the NHL trade deadline in February, ended up being a fatal blow. There was too much stress on a patchwork defense corps, and it was a major factor in the Bruins missing the playoffs. And even if they'd made it, the B's would have been nothing more than first-round cannon fodder.

The Band-Aid trade for 35-year-old John-Michael Liles was a nominal improvement at the deadline, but it spoke to just how badly they needed puck-moving reinforcements to assist a clearly overworked Torey Krug.

“I can tell you [Sweeney] worked extremely hard to try to move up (in the first round)," said Bruins president Cam Neely at his end-of-the-season press conference. "The scouting staff did a good job of identifying [players], and obviously, if you look back at the draft . . . you kind of had to be (in one of the top spots) to get one of those [defensemen] that were highly coveted. [Sweeney] just couldn’t do it last offseason. [He also] tried throughout the year to make something happen and he’s maybe laid some groundwork (for a future trade) . . . Hopefully [he'll] be able to get something done in the offseason.

"But like I said earlier, we know it’s an area that we need to improve upon . . . [We] know what our back end is all about. We need to . . . really improve that area of our team . . . [It's] something that I know [Sweeney's] going to be very focused on.”

Fast-forward to the present day. The Bruins finished the season with the aging, declining Chara, now 39, as their No. 1 defenseman, and the 5-foot-8 Krug as their No. 2 while posting a career-high 21:37 of ice time per game. The diminutive Krug perhaps paid the price for that wear and tear with right shoulder surgery last month that could sideline him until late October, which raises red flags about whether he should again play those kinds of heavy-duty minutes given his offensive value.

Beyond those two, the Bruins’ defensive prospects aren’t bright. The body of 35-year-old Dennis Seidenberg is breaking down, and the B's would love to be out from under the final two years (at $4 million per) of his contract. Both McQuaid and Kevan Miller are limited, stay-at-home defensemen better cast as bottom-pair guys. Youngsters Colin Miller, Zach Trotman and Joe Morrow weren’t able to lock down roles last season for a multitude of reasons. Miller is the only one who appears to have potential to develop into a top-four NHL defenseman; Trotman and Morrow seem poised to be passed by other young D-men (Brandon Carlo, Robbie O’Gara, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon) in the organizational ranks sooner rather than later.

Botton line: It simply doesn’t feel like the Bruins have the answer to their defense woes, at least in the short term, within their system.

They need a No. 1 defenseman in the prime of his career, or being groomed into that prime, who can ideally allow the Bruins coaching staff to start easing up on Chara's ice time. Chara is a No. 1 in name only these days, and would be much better served as a middle-pairing D-man playing closer to 20 minutes a night and removed from the power play, where he no longer features his booming slap shot very much.

It’s an fact that nearly every team that’s won the Stanley Cup since the 2004-05 lockout has had a prime No. 1 defenseman in the 25-33 age range, with the exceptions of the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes and 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins. Names like Chara, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Nik Lidstrom, Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty figured prominently in those championships, playing 30 minutes a night during the brutal two-month run to the Cup.

The Bruins don’t have that type of guy right now, and they aren’t anywhere close to competing for a Cup until they get one.

So how do you get one?

Sweeney and his management team are already deeply involved in that process, and that’s where names like Jacob Trouba, Sami Vatanen and Matthew Dumba will figure prominently in trade discussions this summer. But those types of players are costly, both in terms what will be needed to be surrendered to acquire them -- trade partners will undoubtedly ask for such talent as David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Ryan Spooner -- and in what they'll be seeking in new contracts, since those demands are what's pushing them into the trade market to begin with.

Ultimately, there’s no guarantee that Sweeney and Co. will close the deal for any of these defensemen, given how hard it is to acquire young talent in trades in the NHL. There's also no guarantee the Bruins will target the right guy in a blockbuster trade, seeing how their scouting staff has whiffed on players like Hayes, Zac Rinaldo and Brett Connolly in recent years.  

The Bruins can hope their amateur scouting and development group can unearth a gem. After all, the Blackhawks probably didn’t know they had a future Conn Smythe winner in Keith when they selected him 54th overall in the 2002 draft. The Penguins got a diamond in Kris Letang with the 62nd overall pick in 2005 NHL. The Bruins, too, struck gold when they acquired Johnny Boychuk from the Colorado Avalanche in a deal for energy forward Matt Hendricks. Within a few years, Boychuk developed into a top-pairing stud on a Stanley Cup championship team. 

So perhaps one of the young prospects currently in the Bruins system is the ultimate answer as an eventual replacement for Chara.

But that’s something tough to count on, especially since -- even if it happens -- it's unlikely to happen in time to provide help next season. Sweeney and Neely need to pull off something in the epic-acquisition category this summer, whether it’s a deal for Kevin Shattenkirk and/or something worked out with a team like Winnipeg for a stud like Trouba.

Both their jobs, and the immediate health and well-being of a Bruins organization currently in distress, may very well depend on it.