While Bruins fans fretted over the lack of a new contract as the opening of training camp neared, restricted free agent forward Brad Marchand and general manager Peter Chiarelli never doubted that a deal would get made in time.
"I wasn't getting nervous, I was just getting anxious," Marchand said Wednesday afternoon in a conference call. "As camp approaches I wanted to be there and I was very excited to get under way. We both knew something was going to get done. It was just a matter of time."
Time was running out with veterans due to report in less than 48 hours, but the deal was struck on Wednesday for a new two-year pact, reportedly worth $5 million with $2 million this season and $3 next year for a cap hit of $2.5 million.
That's a reasonable deal that neither side should have any remorse over. It gives Marchand some security and a sizable raise over the $600,000 base salary he made last year ($821,000 cap hit with bonuses factored in).
But it also doesn't hamstring the Bruins' salary cap situation. They now have everyone signed for the upcoming season, and depending on how many players they keep with the big club, the Bruins will still have $3-5 million under the cap for any moves they want to make during the year. Just as important, the two-year term gives Chiarelli one less thing to worry about next summer when he faces leading scorer David Krejci and goalie Tuukka Rask entering restricted free agency and veterans Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Joe Corvo and Johnny Boychuk all due to be unrestricted free agents.
The two-year term does have the potential to make the summer of 2013 a little messy, though, as Marchand will be up for his next deal in the same offseason that Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin and Nathan Horton will be up for new contracts. Marchand will still be a restricted free agent then, as will Lucic and Seguin, while Horton would be free to test the market as an unrestricted free agent if not re-signed before July 1, 2013.
For now, though, the Bruins can breathe a sigh of relief that Marchand is back in the fold for at least two more seasons, and both sides appear satisfied with the term, though longer deals were discussed.
"In these negotiations you talk about a lot of different things and we did with this one," Chiarelli said. "We found that this term was probably best for both parties. It gives some security. It gives Brad the ability to come back in a couple years and negotiate with us again. It was just something that was a fit here, but we did talk about a bunch of different terms."
Marchand's deal didn't approach the lavish six-year, $25.5-million deal that James van Riemsdyk received from the Flyers at the end of August, but it does fall in line with several other comparable deals signed this summer. Teddy Purcell re-signed with Tampa Bay for two years and $4.75 million after 17-34-51 totals last year and 6-11-17 in 18 playoff games, while Logan Couture inked a two-year, $5.75-million deal to stay in San Jose after a 32-24-56 campaign and 7-7-14 totals in 18 playoff games.
Marchand had 21-20-41 totals in his first full season in the NHL last year, then delivered 11-8-19 totals in 25 playoff games en route to winning the Stanley Cup. Those numbers are similar to van Riemsdyk's 21-19-40 line in the regular season, followed by seven goals in 11 playoff games, but van Riemsdyk also had the pedigree of being the second overall pick in 2007 and was coming off a max entry-level deal.
"It's a great fit for both of us," Marchand said of the two-year deal. "I'm very happy with the term. We talked about a little longer and I think that was just about [getting] a little more security, but I think this was a perfect fit for both parties."
Getting to that "perfect" deal took almost all of the entire offseason, which is a reflection of just how difficult these second contracts for emerging players have become.
"These deals that come off entry-level deals are hard deals to negotiate for both sides," Chiarelli said. "They don't have arbitration [rights]. There's sticking points along the negotiations. You've seen some other players that have waited this long. It's an area in the CBA where it's a tough negotiating time for the player with that status, and Brad had a terrific year and terrific playoffs. It's not a reflection on the Bruins or on Brad, it's just where he was in his career with regard to the CBA and you see it happening right across the league."
Several other high-profile RFAs remain unsigned, but the Bruins won't have to worry about anyone missing the start of camp.
"It was important," Chiarelli said of signing Marchand before the start of camp on Friday. "I didn't think it would get to that stage. Brad's always told me that he wants to be here and be a part of the Bruins, and I know the work [assistant GM] Don Sweeney put in and Brad's representative [Wade Arnott]. They put in some good time and I had a feeling it would get done. It's nice to finish this business before camp because if you fall behind in camp it's hard to catch up."
Getting everyone into camp on time has become the norm for the club under Chiarelli. Since he took over as GM in 2006, only one player has missed any portion of camp due to a contract dispute. That was Phil Kessel in 2009, and he was dealt to Toronto before the start of that season.
Both Chiarelli and Marchand were determined that their negotiations would be resolved more amicably, and on time.
"From the get-go, I never was going to miss a day of camp," Marchand said. "I never wanted that. I wanted to be here first day and go through the whole camp with the guys and be part of the team. I'm very happy that it didn't come down to that and we were able to get the deal done before camp."