BOSTON -- Coming off a career-high 37 goals last season, it might be easy for Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand to already be looking forward to free agency.
The 28-year-old left wing is entering the final season of a four-year contract with an average annual salary of $4.5 million. Marchand could be a coveted player if he doesn't sign a new contract with the Bruins before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Marchand, though, believes that scenario is way too far ahead in the future.
"I don't know, I've never really been in that situation and I haven't really thought about it," Marchand said Thursday after his first informal practice with a handful of teammates at Warrior Ice Arena. "It's a whole year away. A lot of things can happen in a year's time. If it ever gets down to that then we'll worry about that then. But right now I have too many things that I need to focus on to even worry about that. I've always been the kind of guy to take it day by day with not a whole lot of worries.
"Right now I'm focusing on the World Cup. Then I'll focus on the season and whatever has to be dealt with that will be dealt with."
Video: BOS@NJD: Marchand finishes nifty move on the backhand
Marchand's consistent improvement, which led to a career-best 61 points last season, helped him secure one of the last spots on Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey 2016 this month. In addition to his scoring ability, Marchand brings speed, defensive responsibility and airtight penalty killing to any roster. He has international experience, including winning a gold medal at the 2016 IIHF World Championship in May, but the World Cup will provide a unique opportunity to play with and against the best players in the world with the focus of the entire sport on one single stage.
"I'm extremely excited. It's one of the biggest stages you can play on. And the caliber of hockey's going to be extremely high," Marchand said. "So it's going to be a very fun tournament, very competitive and one I'm really looking forward to being a part of."
Few believed Marchand, who was a third-round pick (No. 71) in the 2006 NHL Draft, could become the type of player who comes close to scoring 40 goals in a season. But he worked his way up from Providence of the American Hockey League to the fourth line in the NHL and eventually a top-six role on the Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup championship team. Last season he led the Bruins in goals and was fourth in scoring.
After seven seasons in the NHL, Marchand isn't going to take anyone by surprise. There are going to be opponents gunning for him and there will still be those who doubt his ability to duplicate what he accomplished last season. Marchand's plan is to continue to focus on the process that brought him to new heights, rather than worry about achieving statistical goals.
Video: BOS@TBL: Marchand tips home Bergeron's feed for win
"The main thing is to not try to chase it," he said. "I think when you chase something like that then things will go wrong and you stop playing the game the right way. I'm not so much focused on hitting that number as I am playing a good game and 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, as long as I played well and did the right things, then they'll still be happy with my game. So it's more about being the right player for the team than it is hitting a certain number because when you do that, you may start to cheat and play the wrong way and that can ultimately affect the team."
Marchand saw teammate Loui Eriksson go through a contract year last season and score 30 goals and have 63 points. Eriksson signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1. Marchand believes the last year of a contract should be more of a motivation than a distraction and he plans to harness that power to again be a dominant forward for the Bruins.
He wants to remain with the Bruins, whom he called an "incredible organization." But rather than talking about the contract and money he wants to talk about goals and assists, wins and losses.
"First and foremost, you want to take it year-by-year and I think I'm really excited about the upcoming season and what's ahead," he said. "I think we have a few new additions that are really going to help our team. Guys are really hungry missing the playoffs again last year. So I think first and foremost this season is on my mind and we'll deal with years after that down the road."