So what’s the hold-up with the Brad Marchand contract negotiations anyway?
It’s 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 B’s front office is excellent at taking care of lingering contracts early in the process, but Marchand’s 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.
It’s no exaggeration to say Marchand’s 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 hasn’t 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 Kessel’s 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 doesn’t appear to be a smitten suitor the same way the Arnott/Kessel team had 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 don’t 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 doesn’t appear that there will be any grand announcement during Marchand’s 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.
“[I’m] hopeful, but it’s no sure thing,” said Arnott, casting the slightest shed of doubt that Marchand’s signing is an automatic.
It sounds like there’s still a chasm between the player and the team when it comes to determining his contract value. Marchand is a difficult case because he’s 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 Boston’s win.
Marchand is a key cog in the B’s skating on a line with Patrice Bergeron and either Rich Peverley or Tyler Seguin next season, and the Bergeron/Marchand duo was dynamite all last season.
There’s little doubt the Bruins would have fallen short of the Cup without Marchand’s services, and he’s now part of team building blocks moving forward. But the NHL is all about consistency, and that’s something Marchand hasn’t 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 it’s a young player maturing or just part of the player package with Marchand. It’s a delicate balancing act, and it’s 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 isn’t 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 B’s rabble-rouser a restricted free agent under Boston’s 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. That’s 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 Bergenheim’s four-year, $11 million deal with the Florida Panthers would appear close to the high end target for what Marchand’s 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 it’s pretty clear Marchand’s ceiling is much higher after his one amazing season.
There’s 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. (It’s expected Savard won’t be able to pass the training camp physical and he’ll 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. Marchand’s only real option – save an getting an offer sheet from a team with some extra cap money kicking around that’s 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 B’s 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 hasn’t been a lot of progress made since that interview, and there’s no guarantee it’ll be done when camp opens up next month.