BOSTON — Brad Marchand returned to Boston this weekend with the smile that's been plastered on his face since the Bruins won the Stanley Cup more than a month ago still firmly in place.
Back in town for a VIP screening of the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions DVD with teammates Shawn Thornton and Andrew Ference and team president Cam Neely Monday night at Loews Theatre in downtown Boston, Marchand was his usual jovial self despite the fact that the restricted free agent winger remains without a contract for next season.
"I missed you guys," Marchand joked with the assembled media. "I had to come back to see you again."
Bruins fans just want to see Marchand back on the ice next season after a breakthrough rookie campaign last year. Marchand didn't have much to offer about the progress of negotiations, as he's letting agent Wade Arnott handle those discussions, but he stressed that he's not worried about hammering out a new agreement with the Bruins.
"I haven't heard much," Marchand said. "My agent is handling all that stuff. We're looking forward to getting something done soon.
"They know I want to be back here, and they want me back, so we'll get something done," Marchand added.
Both sides have plenty of reasons to want to continue their relationship. In his first full season in the NHL, the Bruins agitator remained one of the more unpleasant characters to have to play against, while also showing an ability to put up points and score some clutch goals as Marchand had 21-20-41 totals in the regular season and added another 11 goals in the playoffs.
Marchand, 23, had an $821,667 cap hit and a base salary of $600,000 last year in the final year of his entry-level deal. As a restricted free agent, the Bruins have the right to match any offer he gets from another club or receive draft-pick compensation, but the preference for both sides is to keep him in Boston for the foreseeable future.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said last week that re-signing Marchand was his top priority and that there had been progress made in discussions. Marchand, meanwhile, offered an interesting hypothesis for the holdup in talks when asked what was taking so long to get a deal done.
"The Cup, the Stanley Cup," Marchand said. "Management's getting the Cup a lot and all that stuff, but I think we'll get something done in the next week or two."
Even if Chiarelli and Co. are enjoying some extra time with the Cup, they've still managed to sign free agent Benoit Pouliot, trade for Joe Corvo and sign Adam McQuaid to an extension since the start of July, so not all club business has been shut down for celebrations.
Signing Marchand to a new deal should be the next order of business. It may be the most important item on Chiarelli's to-do list this offseason, but Marchand remains confident the two sides will be able to check it off under the done column in the near future.
"It's been a very busy time for everyone with the Cup and everything," Marchand said. "Even though we know we have all summer, we're both confident something's going to get done here soon. I don't think either of us are worried. We know something's going to get done. They know I want to be here. I know they want me here."