There are few players like Brad Marchand in the NHL.
Last season, in his second full year, Marchand popped in 28 goals and dished out 27 assists. Among Bruins forwards, Marchand (17:37) trailed only Patrice Bergeron (18:34) and David Krejci (18:25) in average ice time. Marchand played in all situations. For most of the last two seasons, he has been Bergeron’s left wing on the team’s best two-way line.
And there’s that mouth.
It is the unique body of work — his production as well as his skills of agitation (87 penalty minutes last season) — that earned Marchand a four-year, $18 million extension on Friday. The deal ($4.5 million average annual value) will become effective in 2013-14 and run through 2016-17. In 2012-13, Marchand will enter the second season of a two-year, $5 million contract.
“I like the whole package,” general manager Peter Chiarelli said during a conference call. “He went through some stuff last year with a couple incidents. Through the disciplinary process, we engaged in a couple philosophical discussions with that office. Brad recognizes that part of his game as being a valuable part of his game. He’s a smart enough player that as he gets older, you learn the ropes a little bit more. You can tweak your game a little bit.”
The proactive extension contrasts to last year’s sputtering negotiations. Marchand, coming off his entry-level contract, was unsigned until two days before the start of training camp.
Last year’s negotiations, however, proved to be the launching pad for Marchand’s current deal. According to Wade Arnott, Marchand’s agent, the sides agreed last September to revisit a long-term contract a year later. Arnott said the sides have been negotiating for approximately one month.
Marchand’s previous contract was framed by San Jose Shark Logan Couture’s two-year, $5.75 million contract. Comparables for Marchand’s latest extension include the Panthers’ Kris Versteeg (four years, $17.6 million) and the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek (four years, $17 million).
Marchand’s extension is effective under the current collective bargaining agreement, which will expire Sept. 15. There is no telling how contracts like Marchand’s will be structured in the next CBA. It is just as unclear how Marchand’s extension might be affected in the next system. It’s possible the deal could be reduced, partly decreased via escrow, or left untouched.
Chiarelli said it was not a priority to make Marchand’s extension subject to the current system. Rather, Chiarelli voiced his preference to extend core players prior to the start of the season.
“We’ve been on this for a little bit,” Chiarelli said. “We’re not governed by Sept. 15.”
Arnott also said there was no urgency to sign an extension under the current CBA. However, he noted that during the last lockout, contract negotiations did not take place.
“Probably preferable,” Arnott said of signing under the current system. “But it wasn’t like there was a deadline to have something done before the 15th.”
Marchand was the team’s third-round pick in 2006. As a rookie in 2010-11, he scored 21 goals and had 20 assists. Marchand started on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. But because of his offensive touch, he was promoted to second-line duty with Bergeron and Mark Recchi.
Last season, Marchand continued to develop into an all-around presence. He earned 2:09 of ice time per game on the power play, where he scored five goals with one assist. On the penalty kill, with Bergeron as his partner, Marchand averaged 1:23 per game.
“An important progression of being a successful NHL player is you have to learn how to adapt,” Chiarelli said. “He’s been really good at that. He’s still 24, in the prime of his career. It’s been an interesting journey to watch him get to this point. I like the whole package. He plays the way we want guys to play, in their own way — to be aggressive, strong on the puck, enthusiastic.”
Marchand might have hit the 30-goal mark last season had he not caught the attention of league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan. On Jan. 7, Marchand went low on Sami Salo and upended the Vancouver defenseman. Marchand was tossed for clipping. Salo suffered a concussion. Two days later, Shanahan tagged Marchand with a five-game suspension.
It was the most expensive reminder — Marchand forfeited $152,439.02 in salary — that his approach can have consequences. Marchand and the Bruins maintain he performs better when playing on the edge and with emotion. But as a prior offender, Marchand plays under a greater glare because of his boisterous game.
“He’ll continue to learn how to draw that fine line,” Chiarelli said. “He’s certainly aware of it. That line has moved a bit.”
Tyler Seguin will be the next to sign an extension. His deal should be finalized next week, according to a team source. Seguin’s deal will track the extensions granted earlier this summer to the Hurricanes’ Jeff Skinner (six years, $34.35 million) and the Oilers’ Taylor Hall (seven years, $42 million). Seguin is currently scheduled to be a restricted free agent following 2012-13.
Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask will also reach RFA status at the end of 2012-13. Chiarelli declined to comment on whether either would be extended prior to Sept. 15.