Haggerty: Marchand not getting caught up in contract, but Bruins should be


Haggerty: Marchand not getting caught up in contract, but Bruins should be

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Brad Marchand has proven in the past that he’s a mentally tough competitor in the unforgiving world of the NHL.

He’s become an elite forward despite being undersized at 5-foot-9, 183 pounds. He routinely wins the mental battle against opponents that he goads into costly mistakes and he’s bounced back from any number of tough situations, like getting suspended for last season’s Winter Classic just before the B’s got smoked by the Montreal Canadiens at Gillette Stadium.

MORE: Frank Vatrano looking to become a 'complete player'

But it will be a new challenge for the 28-year-old headed into this season as it’s the final year of his contract with the Bruins ahead of unrestricted free agency. Marchand is coming off a career year where he scored 37 goals and really took a step forward for the Black and Gold. As the Nose Face Killah himself admitted, “it’s a high bar” to reach headed into a season where a lot of pressure could be on his shoulders individually and team-wise.

“With the opportunity I had last year, [the 37 goals] raises the bar a little bit,” admitted Marchand. “If I’m given the same opportunity again this year then that’s where the bar is going to be. It was nice to hit that next level, and the goal now is to stay at that level and continue to grow.

“The main thing is to not try to chase it. When you chase something like [a high goal total] things can go wrong. You stop playing the game the right way. I’m not so much focused on hitting any numbers as playing the game the right way, being a good player for the team, being strong defensively and playing my role the way they want me to do it. I’m sure if I didn’t get back there [to 37 goals] as long as I’m playing my game and doing the right things then they’ll be happy with what I’m doing. It’s more about being the right player for the team rather than hitting a certain number. When you do that you can start to cheat and play the wrong way, and that can ultimately affect the team.”

From a contract standpoint, Marchand had very little to say, aside from mentioning he’s taking things “year by year” and that he’d like to remain a member of the Bruins for a long time. Clearly, he’s invested in the team given that he was very active in the B’s recruiting process for both David Backes and Jimmy Vesey. That would indicate he intends to be Patrice Bergeron’s wing man for a long time.

“This is an incredible organization, and one that we’re all very fortunate to be a part of,” said Marchand, who would only say his agent and the Bruins “are talking” and that he hoped they ‘could figure something out.’ “It would be great to be here my whole career, and you see how rare that is nowadays. It doesn’t happen often, so that would be incredible. But a lot of things have to line up in order for that to happen not only now, but down the road. So, we’ll play it year-by-year. I’m really excited about the upcoming season and what is ahead. I think we’ve got a couple of new additions that are really going to help our team.

“Guys are really hungry after missing the playoffs again last year. First and foremost this year is on my end and we’ll deal with the years after that down the road.”

All that being said, the Bruins are still going to have to pay big time for the Bruins agitator and leading goal-scorer.

COUNTDOWN TO CAMP: Malcolm Subban | Anton Khudobin | Brandon Carlo

Given his age and his production, Marchand should easily expect to top the six-year, $36 million contract given to Loui Eriksson by the Vancouver Canucks on July 1. Another season for Marchand similar to last season – if the Bruins allow it to get to that point without a long-term contract extension -- could make the left winger one of the top salaried players on the roster. 

An argument could easily be made that Marchand should be paid in the neighborhood of top wingers  Bobby Ryan and Zach Parise, and that would put No. 63’s price tag in the $7 million to $7.5 million-per-season range without even taking the natural inflation of salaries year-to-year into account.

Beyond the numbers and his comprables around the NHL, it’s about the attitude and competitiveness that Marchand brings to the table for a Bruins team that’s gone alarmingly soft in the past two seasons while missing the playoffs. He’s one of the few players still retaining some bite from the Cup team of the recent past. That’s a key ingredient for success and keeping the old-time hockey fans happy around Boston.

It would make the most sense for Marchand and the Bruins to get something done once he gets back from the World Cup of Hockey and before the price continues to go up if he starts scoring goals by the bushel once again this season. That has to be the hope for a B’s team that’s really started to struggle when it comes to closing the big deals and doing what needs to be done to put a playoff-level team out on the ice that could actually win a championship.

A key part of retaining that link to the recent glorious past is re-signing a productive, provocative player in Marchand that’s at the top of his game right now and that should be Don Sweeney’s biggest priority prior to the drop of the puck a little more than a month from now. 

Marchand is doing the right thing by not actively getting bogged down in contract negotiations prior to a pivotal season for him, but it’s something that the entire Black and Gold management group should be knee-deep in right now with a generous push to get it done. 

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

Donato misses Bruins practice for Harvard class commitment

It might have caused a ripple when Ryan Donato wasn’t on the ice on Tuesday afternoon in St. Louis for Bruins practice on the day after his brilliant, three-point NHL debut for the Black and Gold. But the 21-year-old Donato was still back in the Boston area fulfilling some class requirements at Harvard University to help him close out the current semester properly, and not lose the credits that will keep him in line with fulfilling his junior year at Harvard University.

Believe it or not, the schoolwork is important to the newest member of the Boston Bruins and he intends to study and hit the books on his road trips, and also intends to take classes in the summertime to still graduate on time next season.

“I’m planning on finishing the semester academically. I want to finish the semester academically,” said Donato, after Monday’s morning skate at Warrior Ice Arena prior to last night’s debut vs. Columbus. “Obviously it’s going to be something that’s difficult, but for me it was a dream to graduate from Harvard. I’m putting that off a little bit, but I need to be able to finish this semester in order to have that opportunity, and not put it off for another couple of years. I want to finish out the semester.”

Donato is also still living in the Harvard dorms while “moonlighting” as an NHL hockey player for the rest of the season, but that isn’t all so uncommon among some of the college players that leave school early. Charlie McAvoy was similarly living in the Boston University dorms last spring through Boston’s playoff run, and didn’t clear out of his college living situation until after the Black and Gold had been eliminated by the Ottawa Senators last April.

Missing practices on an NHL schedule is certainly a new one with, Donato, however, and takes the student-athlete concept to a whole new level for somebody that's already turned pro. One has to expect this was one of the things being discussed in full when the Donato family, Ryan's agent and the Bruins discussed his contract terms over the weekend before coming to an agreement.

Along with Donato, who is scheduled to fly into St. Louis and play against the Blues on Wednesday night, Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes, Jake DeBrusk, Rick Nash and Torey Krug were all missing from the ice at Tuesday’s team practice ahead of a four game road trip against Western Conference opponents.


Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

File photo

Morning Skate: Claude's Habs 'not a very good team'

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while not really digging these forecasts of more snow.

*You know, if he weren’t making millions and millions of dollars I might actually feel bad for ol' Claude Julien up in Montreal busting out the “We’re not a very good team” soliloquy with the Habs. That team flat out stinks this season and these past few weeks it can’t be fun at all being the head coach of that dumpster fire.

*Darren Dreger says there is no rush for the Toronto Maple Leafs to bring back Auston Matthews before he’s ready to go, and that’s absolutely the case so close to the playoffs.

*Here are five Hart Trophy-caliber players that won’t get a sniff of the voting, but deserve some attention nonetheless. There are no Bruins players on the list if you’re wondering, but some pretty good ones in Johnny Gaudreau and Aleksander Barkov.

*The NHL general managers are weighing potential changes to the goalie-interference interpretation ahead of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

*While it still looks a Swedish defenseman is going to be the No. 1 overall pick this June, there are some other players rocketing up the list.

*For something completely different: The definitive ranking of Girl Scout cookies from best-to-worst that we’ve all been waiting for.

*Song of the Week: Haven’t done one of these in a long, long time, but I like this Calvin Harris/Katy Perry/Pharrell Williams tune that I hadn’t heard until the past couple of days.