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After taking losses in year-long negotiations in back-to-back seasons, the first with Dougie Hamilton
and then another with Loui Eriksson
, the Boston Bruins opted not to even entertain a potential third with yesterday’s signing of top-line winger Brad Marchand
to an eight-year, $49 million contract extension ($6.125 million average annual value).
With one year remaining on his current deal, the extension keeps the 28-year-old Marchand in town for the next nine years, or through his age 36 season. The new deal also comes with a full no-move clause in the first five seasons, and then a varying modified no-trade in the final three, per a source.
Marchand was, quite simply, a must have for the Bruins. A fit on Boston’s first line next to Patrice Bergeron
, the Nova Scotia native has gotten better as a noticeably more complete player every year in town, and has emerged as one of the league’s best three-zone wingers. People are entirely too quick to point to Marchand’s 37 goals last year, the most by any Bruin since Glen Murray tallied 44 in 2002-03, and say that it can’t happen again. But nobody wants to tell you why. It’s entirely possible that Marchand can score become a regular 30-goal scorer for the Black and Gold, especially if the club can carve out a regular role for No. 63 on the potent Boston power play. (Marchand scored the sixth-most goals in the NHL last year -- and only Alexander Ovechkin scored more goals in the East -- but ranked 319th among NHLers in power-play time-on-ice per game, at 1:28 per night, last year.)
Marchand actually shot just a hair under his prior career average of 15.1% in 2015-16, too, at 14.8%, but was able to rifle off a career-high 250 shots on goal, a 70-shot increase from his prior career-high. If he can continue to shoot at that volume -- which can and will happen on the Bergeron line, especially if they figure out a viable option on the right wing, something they did not have last year, and again, with a permanent role on the power play -- 30 goals will become a mere formality.
But when you talk of an eight-year deal -- or any deal longer than three years, really -- people are quick to point towards a breakdown of the body. That logic doesn’t necessarily apply to a player with Marchand’s style, though, at least not like it does with players like Ryan Callahan, Justin Abdelkader, or even Boston’s big offseason signing, David Backes. Although Marchand has some ‘grit’ and nasty to his game, most of his success comes from his smarts around the net, and ability to turn what would typically appear as a low-percentage opportunity into a legitimate scoring chance and, often, a goal.
Speed was the name of Marchand’s game when he broke into the league in 2011, and while his wheels are still very much there, you’ve seen Marchand develop into more of a cerebral type that finds the lanes and space with Bergeron to make defensemen and goaltenders look straight-up foolish. That ability to read defenses and shoot wobbling pucks at goaltenders won’t suddenly change with age.
In essence, if the shots are there, and Marchand takes them, which he has in any and all situations since breaking into the league, there’s still a great deal of value well into Marchand’s 30s.
“We just have to look back at his first year to where he is now. How much more - when I say he's matured as a hockey player, he's also matured as a person because he's also become a pretty good leader,” B’s coach Claude Julien
said of Marchand. “Right now, where he is with Team Canada, he's also very respected by his teammates for the way he prepares, the way he plays, and everything else. He's come a long ways. At the same time, what better example to grow and become better when you're playing alongside probably with one of the best two-way centers in the league. He's had that luxury too. As a coach, you're extremely proud of how well they've done so far. If they can bring this to our hockey club this year, it certainly bodes well in the direction we're going in.”
There’s also enormous value in this contract for the Black and Gold in regards to the cap-hit, as Marchand has scored the 15th-most goals in the NHL since the start of the 2011-12 season, while the 14 talents above him in that regard average over $7 million per year on their contracts. There’s also value in the sense that Marchand -- who likely could have netted at least $7 million per year on the open market on a seven-year deal -- didn’t necessarily ‘cash in’ after a career-high 37 goals in 2015-16. Not in dollars per season, anyhow. Marchand was going to get $49 million no matter what -- it was just a matter of the years that cash would be spread across -- and eight years is better than six ($8.166 million cap-hit) or seven ($7 million cap-hit) in terms of your cap flexibility as a team.
But if we’re to follow the league’s trends, the truth is that Marchand’s contract will likely equate out to a $4.5 to $5 million per year contract if the cap rises like it should, especially towards the final few years of the deal. Or, in other words, Marchand’s new contract will not prevent the Black and Gold from landing the top-end defenseman they’ve scoured the Earth for, be it tomorrow or next summer.
Which becomes the next big move for Sweeney and company.
Ty Anderson has been covering the National Hockey League for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, has been a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter since 2013, and can also be read in the New England Hockey Journal magazine. Contact him on Twitter or send him an email at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com.