Neely: Bruins want to close a Marchand deal 'before start of the season'

Neely: Bruins want to close a Marchand deal 'before start of the season'

Brad Marchand scored 37 goals in a career year for the Black and Gold last season, and he spent Friday night skating far away from Boston on a dominant World Cup line for Team Canada with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby. Both of those things have added to the 28-year-old’s value as he heads into a potential free agent walk season, and his representation is in present talks with Bruins management about a contract extension.

Given the premium cost of goal-scoring around the NHL, Marchand wouldn’t be out of bounds asking for the same $7-7.5 million annual salary that peers like Bobby Ryan and Zach Parise have earned in free agency over the last few years. The 5-foot-9, 183-pounder would also certainly want a long term deal in the 7-8 year range with the Bruins which could bring a realistic contract extension into the neighborhood of $49-60 million when it’s all said and done.

So it would be a massive commitment from the Bruins for a gifted scorer that also plays on the edge, but Marchand is also a guy that plays in all situations while filling the vital role as right-hand man to Bergeron. For all those reasons along with the 153 goals he’s scored over his six full seasons, Cam Neely told CSN this week that they have let Marchand know that signing the left winger is one of the club’s biggest priorities prior to this season.

“We’d like to get Brad signed. We’ve made that clear to him, and we’ve made that clear to his agency. I know Don has been working with their group to a get a deal done,” said Neely on CSN’s Great American Hockey Show podcast. “We’d like to get something done before the start of the season.”

That makes all the sense in the world since Marchand’s price tag is only going to move north as he moves closer to free agency at the end of this season, and the pressure will concurrently mount on a Bruins team that can’t afford to lose another elite player from their core group.

Marchand spoke about his contract status a week ago while quickly darting in and out of Boston prior to the World Cup getting going, and was complimentary of the B’s while keeping his negotiating cards close to his agitating vest.

“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.”

Marchand clearly didn’t want to give away any negotiating ground in his comments, but it’s fairly obvious where his long term loyalty sits when he was a major recruiting voice in the pursuit of both David Backes and Jimmy Vesey. One worked out and one didn’t for the Black and Gold, but in both cases No. 63 showed how committed he is to the betterment of his current employer. Those are the kinds of actions that speak to a player that wants to keep on wearing the Spoked B for a good, long time to come.

The good news is that the B’s are bound and determined to lock up Marchand before the puck drops on the season on Oct. 13, but the hard part will be closing on the kind of major deal that’s tripped up Boston a bit over the last couple of years.

Cassidy eyeing possible Bergeron return this weekend

File Photo

Cassidy eyeing possible Bergeron return this weekend

Bruins star center Patrice Bergeron has been dealing with a fractured foot injury since late February. He sustained the injury while blocking a shot in the loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Coach Bruce Cassidy is predicting a return for Bergeron this weekend against the Minnesota Wild if he is medically cleared. He will be evaluated tomorrow.

Depending on the results from the evaluation, there might not even be a need to rush Bergeron back with the Bruins clinching a playoff berth in a 2-1 OT loss to the Blues yesterday evening.

MORE BRUINS: Bruins clinch playoff berth in 2-1 OT loss to Blues​

The Bruins currently sit two games behind the Tampa Bay Lighting for first place in the Atlantic Division. Ten games currently remain on the B’s schedule with the Presidents' Trophy also hanging in the balance.

If the B’s decide to make a run for the Presidents' Trophy, Bergeron would definitely provide a boost in play in addition to leadership for the final stretch of the regular season.


Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Now that they're officially in, Bruins need to get healthy

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 2-1 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center:

1) This team is now bona-fide playoff material. 

We knew this was coming for months after the Black and Gold went on an epic three-month hot streak that catapulted them to second place in the Atlantic Division and within a couple of wins of catching the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now that the Bruins have hit the 100-point mark and clinched the playoffs with the overtime point they got Wednesday, it’s now going to be about positioning for the postseason. That means giving all their injured players ample time to heal and be as close to 100 percent as possible and perhaps even eventually giving up on catching the Lighting for the No. 1 overall seed if it means sacrificing anything for full readiness in the postseason. But that’s a story for the first few weeks of April. On this Thursday, let’s just appreciate a Bruins team that’s clinched a playoff berth weeks ahead of time and is considered one of the odds-on favorites to go on a run this spring. Whether it’s fighting through the adversity of  injuries, getting major contributions from perhaps the best rookie class in the history of the Black and Gold or showing the heart of a champion in many, many memorable comeback wins, the Bruins have shown an “aura of greatness” this season. Not the greatness that comes along with being a longstanding dynasty, but the greatness that comes along with the promise they hold for doing great things in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This Bruins team is worth your time and interest and could very well produce the best sports experience for a Boston fan this spring. All of those bode very well for where the Bruins are headed.

2) How about that Ryan Donato? 

Two goals in two games is pretty darned good for the 21-year-old and he once again showed his nose for the net and his excellent shot while burying a puck on edge in the slot area thanks to a bad decision Alex Pietrangelo. All that being said, Donato was very quiet after that point in a heavy, physical game and didn’t do much after Dmitri Jaskin blasted him into the side boards in the second period. Clearly, Donato is courageous for a young guy and has the willingness to go to the scoring areas, but it will be instructive to see how he responds to the heavy, hard-hitting treatment he’s going to get in the NHL. As he scores and gets notoriety, there is going to be more punishment and hard hits thrown his way and it’s going to be up to him to adjust and continue to be as effective. Donato will get that chance, but he now knows it’s not going to be as easy as it looked on that first night at the Garden.

3) The Bruins could use some good health soon.

With Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, David Backes and Rick Nash among others missing from the lineup, the Bruins become a much smaller, weaker team that’s increasingly easy to pick on. That’s exactly what the Blues did after falling behind early. There were heavy St. Louis hits thrown all over the ice, including the culmination when Brayden Schenn drilled David Krejci in the corner of the rink. The Bruins never really responded to any of it and instead just kept taking hits and eventually got totally worn down in the third period and overtime when they were just hanging on for their playoff point. Certainly, they can survive in games here or there playing that way, but more Bruins are going to get hurt if opponents are allowed to simply tee off on them as they did on Wednesday night. That won’t be good for anybody associated with the Black and Gold.


*Anton Khudobin was blaming himself for the two goals allowed after the game was over, but the truth is that the Bruins wouldn’t have even got their playoff-clinching point if Khudobin hadn’t stopped a Dmitri Jaskin shot with his goalie mask in the closing seconds. Khudobin was the losing goalie, but he made the big save when the Bruins needed him on Thursday night.

*Donato scored the only goal of the night for the Bruins on a loose puck in the slot that was on edge. He now has two goals and
four points in his first two NHL games. Donato was pretty quiet after that, but how much can you really expect out of the 21-year-old at this point?

*All of the St. Louis offense was supplied by Jaden Schwartz, who beat the Bruins with a wrist shot from the top of the face-off circle in the third period and then went on a breathtaking one-man rush in OT for the game-winner. Schwartz stepped up with Vladimir Tarasenko down and injured right now.


*One shot on net for David Pastrnak in 20-plus minutes. He did alter the path of the Alex Pietrangelo clearing attempt that turned into Ryan Donato’s goal, but was otherwise quiet in a very physical game.

*Nick Holden played almost 25 minutes of ice time and blocked four shots in the absence of Boston’s top three defensemen and was, by and
large, pretty good throughout the game. But he did back off and give Schwartz way too much room to work with on the tying goal. It was also a tough line change as well, but somebody needs to step up and slow down the Blues there.

*Danton Heinen was called for slashing in the second period on a play that was literally a one-handed tap with the stick on a completely
inconsequential play. The NHL really needs to take a chill pill with these slashing calls. That one was bogus.