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.
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.
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.