That’s getting restricted free agent Brad Marchand signed to a new deal. While both the player and team have chosen not to go public with the details of the negotiations thus far, both sides have remained adamant that it’s not a matter of if a deal will be worked out, only a matter of when.
“We know something’s going to get done,” Marchand said when in town for the premiere of the Bruins championship DVD two weeks ago. “They know I want to be here. I know they want me here.”
Those comments came just a few days after Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced, “Right now my priority is signing Brad Marchand.”
Barring any unexpected complications, a deal to keep the Bruins’ sparkplug in Boston should be completed soon. But what should the Bruins expect from Marchand after his surprising breakthrough in his first full season in the NHL this past year?
Determining that is no doubt at the heart of the ongoing negotiations. In the salary cap era, teams can’t afford many mistakes when it comes to making sizable investments in players. And after carrying a cap hit up $821,667 last season, Marchand is in line for a considerable raise.
Marchand was probably the only one not surprised that he put up 21-20-41 totals in 77 games in the regular season. Or that he followed that up with 11-8-19 totals in 25 playoff games, breaking the franchise record for postseason goals by a rookie while helping Boston win its first Cup in 39 years.
Despite not scoring a goal in his 20-game cameo with the big club the year before, in his exit interviews with management after the season he had boldly predicted he’d score 20 the following year.
Will Marchand prove that wasn’t a fluke and put up even better numbers in 2011-12 and beyond? There are some reasons for caution, but Marchand does have a track record of proving doubters wrong at every level.
There is some ammunition for skeptics this time around. There are legitimate concerns about how long Marchand can last playing the aggressive, physical style he does at his size. He’s listed at just 5-foot-9, 183 pounds, and even that might be a bit generous. Not only does he throw that frame around with abandon, but he also excels at agitating opponents, many of whom would like nothing better than to shut up Marchand for good.
There’s also been questions raised about the state of his conditioning with his much-publicized celebrations in the wake of the Cup victory, though that’s been a bit overblown in this age of cell phone cameras and social media recording every step, or misstep, a public figure makes.
A bigger source of concern could be the loss of linemate and mentor Mark Recchi, who retired after winning the Cup for a third time. Not only did Recchi and Marchand develop a strong chemistry on the ice that contributed to both players’ success this past year, but the veteran Recchi was also adept at reining in the rambunctious youngster whenever he took things a little too far. Fortunately for Marchand, Patrice Bergeron is still around to continue both that mentoring process and their on-ice synergy, and there’s no shortage of other respected veteran leaders in the locker room to keep a watchful eye on him as well.
Countering those concerns is the fact that Marchand does have a track record of success at every level he’s played at to offer as evidence that last year’s offensive breakthrough was no mirage. He’s always been more than just an agitator, dating back to his junior days when he averaged better than a point a game with 102-146-248 totals in 245 games over four seasons in the QMJHL.
When he turned pro, he put up 18-41-59 totals in his first season in Providence, second among rookies in the AHL. He was back close to a point a game the following year at 13-19-32 in 34 games between call-ups to Boston.
Even his huge leap from his 0-1-1 showing in those first 20 games with Boston in 2009-10 to this past year’s 21-20-41 line isn’t unprecedented. It took some time for him to adapt in junior as well, going from 9-20-29 in his first year to 29-37-66 in his second.
Marchand’s playoff performance shouldn’t have been too shocking either. He’s always performed best on the biggest stage. He was a key part of two gold medal winning teams for Canada in the World Junior championships in 2007 and 2008, and won a QMJHL title with Moncton in 2006.
Marchand had 79 points and was a plus-30 in 65 career playoff games in the QMJHL, including a league-leading 16-24-40 line in 20 games in 2007. And in his only playoff appearance in the AHL, Marchand had 15 points in 16 games for Providence in 2009.
Due to his size and style of play, there will always be doubters. But that may be the best thing for him, as Marchand thrives on proving wrong anyone who doesn’t believe he can accomplish a goal, or score them in bunches.
NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will be answering one question facing the Bruins this offseason each day until Aug. 8.
Sunday, July 31: What impact will the coaching change in Providence have on the organization?
Tuesday, August 2: What can Nathan Horton do for an encore in his second year in Boston?