TORONTO — Brad Marchand is a better player than Bobby Ryan. You can argue whether having the 28-year-old Marchand on the left wing would be a preferred alternative over 27-year-old Jakub Voracek on the right.
As such, Ryan's $7.25 million average annual value and Voracek's $8.25 million yearly take served as the standards that Marchand could have requested and very much received had July 1, 2017, been his preferred destination.
Team Canada watchers at the World Cup of Hockey are starting to understand what the Bruins have always known about their No. 1 left wing: He is an exquisite 200-foot player, equipped with the legs, hands, smarts, pace, and tenacity to ride shotgun with Sidney Crosby, the world's top talent. Marchand remains abrasive, but his tendency to blast himself and his team in the foot with reckless play has diminished.
"I think it's helped people on the outside as well to see how good he is and maybe shed some of that reputation that he brought upon himself earlier in his career," Bruins coach Claude Julien said of Marchand's play at the World Cup. "He's honest about it. He'll tell you the same thing.
"He's really starting to shed that reputation. He's earning a lot of respect from the people watching. But also people in the dressing room are discovering how good a person he really is, things we've known for a long time in Boston."
Had Marchand opted to wait for 10 months, he could have approached the $8 million annual threshold by expanding his market to 29 teams. But in his heart, just one team and one city were enough for the lifelong Bruin and native Nova Scotian. On Monday, by agreeing to an eight-year extension worth $6.125 million annually, Marchand declared that ripping up the roots he's planted over 10 years in the organization was not worth any such bounty.
"Boston's become my second home," said Marchand after Canada's practice at Air Canada Centre. "I absolutely love it there. I'm very excited about what's ahead for our team. I really believe in our team, our group, and what we're working toward.
"It's a place that I'm very excited about being in for the next number of years and potentially my whole career."
Marchand enters the regular season with what could be his final contract in the books. He scored an eight-year maximum extension. He will be 37 years old at the contract's conclusion, an age where it's hard to see him producing at his current rate.
But any sparklers that Marchand and agent Wade Arnott lit after agreeing to the contract were overwhelmed by the full-blown fireworks and "1812 Overture" cannons the Bruins set off. Once his new deal goes into effect in 2017-'18 (he is in the final season of a four-year, $18 million contract), Marchand will be earning less than David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and Patrice Bergeron.
It would have made general manager Don Sweeney's team-building task far more difficult had Marchand pushed for the money he could have gotten elsewhere.
"Well-deserved contract for Brad with the way he's grown as a player, as a person, and everything else," Julien said. "He's become a real elite player. He's being rewarded for it.
"At the same time, I feel it's a friendly cap hit for our hockey club for the type of player he is. I think both sides won on this. I really do. You hope it's a great example of more of those to come."
Like anybody else, players enjoy being paid well. As crazy as it may seem to us 99 percenters, making $8 million annually versus $6 million is a big deal for those fortunate enough to call such tax brackets home.
But players also enjoy security in several senses of the word. Marchand and his wife like it in Boston. Marchand is now also enjoying the security of a long-term guarantee. Even if a more generous payday elsewhere were in his future, Marchand would not have enjoyed going through the season lacking long-term peace of mind and wallet. Given his pedal-to-the-metal style, Marchand is always at risk of injury.
Had Marchand gone into the year without an extension, his employers would have engaged in trade talk. They secured the commodities they wanted (Martin Jones, Colin Miller, first-round pick) for Milan Lucic one season before his walk year. They got nothing for Loui Eriksson when he left as an unrestricted free agent. A repeat of the Eriksson situation would not have been acceptable.
The deal is not without risk for the Bruins. Marchand's acceleration is critical to his production. As he ages, the bursts of speed and his high-speed strength on the puck will decline. By the end of the contract, Marchand will have to adapt his game to rely on savvy and positioning instead of raw athleticism.
The Bruins, however, had no choice but to sign Marchand. He is one of the game's best left wings. Marchand and Bergeron, linemates internationally as well as in Boston, are one of the league's premier pairs. The Bruins' prospects are not ready to round out their top-heavy roster.
"As a coach, you try not to think about it," Julien said of the possibility of Marchand hitting the market. "You've got him for this year. You let the people who have to deal with it work on it.
"But there's no doubt, you're looking forward to it as much as everybody else in Boston."
Both sides won.