Bruins forward and known motormouth Brad Marchand is probably used to giving players headaches on the ice with his yapping. On Wednesday, both he and the Bruins avoided a pretty sizable headache.
The sides finally agreed to a two-year deal worth a reported $5 million, meaning that Marchand will be under contract until the end of the 2012-13 season, at which point he will once again become a restricted free agent. The deal also means that when the defending Stanley Cup champions open training camp on Friday, they will do so with all their star players signed up and present.
The negotiations certainly took long enough, and they certainly grabbed enough attention in the summer that followed the team's triumph over the Canucks in June, but at the end of the day, both sides were happy without having to worry about anyone being absent from camp.
“I didn't think that it would get to that stage,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said after the team announced the deal. “Brad's always told me that he wants to be here, and be part of the Bruins, and I know the work that Don Sweeney put in and Brad's representative, they put in some good time. I had a feeling it would get done. It's nice to finish this business before camp, because you fall behind in camp and it's hard to catch up. I didn't think it would get to that stage and it didn't."
One line that Marchand repeated throughout the summer and even last week was that the reason his negotiations were taking so long was because things were hectic following the Cup win, and that it was a very busy summer. In reality, the prolonged negotiations were likely a result of the fact that Marchand increased his stock last year, and that it was tough for both sides to agree on just how much he increased it. James van Riemsdyk’s big deal with the Flyers couldn’t have helped matters either, but in the end, Marchand ended up getting right around what one would have figured before his 11 goals in the playoffs: between $2.5 and $3 million annually over two or three years, and it ended up reportedly being $2.5 million annually over the next two years.
That the Bruins didn’t have to go above and beyond with a higher-priced and longer-term deal means they can have one of their best young players at a relatively modest price tag as he tries to prove that his 21 goal total in the regular season was no aberration.
Van Riemsdyk was given a six-year, $25.5 million extension by the Flyers this offseason. That’s a big commitment for a player whose regular-season numbers were just short of Marchand’s (both players had 21 goals, with Marchand’s 20 assists one more than JVR’s 19), but if van Riemsdyk can consistently play against every team the way he does against the Bruins, he will be a steal at a $4.25 million cap hit in the prime years of his career. Both Chiarelli and Marchand admitted there was some discussion about a potentially longer deal, but the Bruins made the right move by getting Marchand to sign for a shorter term.
“It’s a great fit for both of us. I’m happy with the term,” Marchand said. “We talked about a little longer [deal] and I think that was just more about a little more security, but I think this was just a perfect fit for both parties.”
Not that the players are similar in any way (though they’re both good on the penalty kill), but keep in mind that Blake Wheeler scored 21 goals in his rookie year. The Bruins never gave him a big deal, and went to arbitration with him following his second season, an 18-goal campaign. There’s no hiding the fact that when the Bruins are sure that a veteran is key to their operation, they’ll take care of them financially (both Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara got big deals before the first game of their contract years last season), but there’s risk involved in overpaying younger players, something they were able to avoid with Marchand, though it took all summer.
That’s where things may have gotten tricky in the negotiations. Marchand had a year in which he proved himself as a top-six forward and a sparkplug, but it was only one year and it couldn’t be settled with arbitration, as he didn’t qualify.
“These deals that come off of entry-level deals, they’re hard deals to negotiate for both sides,” Chiarelli said. “… There are sticking points along the negotiation. You’ve seen some from other players that have waited this long. It’s an area in the CBA where it’s a tough negotiating time for a player with that status, and Brad had that status. He had a terrific year and a terrific playoffs. It’s not a reflection on the Bruins, on us or on Brad. It’s just where he was in his career with regard to the CBA. You see it happening right across the league.”
Marchand was every bit worth the $821,667 for which he played last season, but it seems the Bruins could once again have him in their lineup at a bargain. Don’t expect his goal total to increase astronomically, but if the B’s can get the same Marchand they saw last year for the next two years, they’ll have gotten a steal.