– When the Boston Bruins
' quest to defend their Stanley Cup championship commences in a little more than three weeks, health-permitting, they're going to have all of their weapons at their disposal.
Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli made sure Wednesday that his team will open camp Friday with all the players he wants in the mix signed, as he agreed to terms with restricted free agent Brad Marchand
on a two-year deal worth a reported $5 million.
It took lengthy negotiations to get a deal done, but both Brad Marchand
and the Bruins are pleased they were able to agree on a contract before Boston opens camp Friday. (Photo: Dave Sanford/NHLI)
Marchand will still be a restricted free agent, under the terms of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, when this deal expires. More importantly, however, was that the mutual admiration between the Bruins and the 23-year-old Marchand resulted in amicable negotiations and finally a deal that prevented any sort of holdout situation.
"From the get-go, I never was going to miss a day of camp. I never wanted that," said Marchand during a conference call. "I wanted to be here from the first day. I wanted to show I wanted to be here and go through the whole camp with the guys and be part of the team. I'm very happy it didn't have to come to that."
Marchand extended the olive branch right off the bat by showing up for informal practices last week and continuing to skate with his teammates without a contract right up until Wednesday morning. He even showed up to the team's charity golf tournament Monday.
The left winger's dedication to the organization was one sign that a deal was going to get done. Chiarelli said he was confident all along.
"It was important (to agree before camp opened)," Chiarelli said. "I didn't think that it would get to that stage. Brad's always told me that he wants to be here and be part of the Bruins. I know the work that (assistant GM) Don Sweeney
put in and Brad's representative, the put in some good time. I had a feeling it was going to get done. But it's nice to finish this business before camp because you fall behind in camp and it's hard to catch up. I didn't think that it would get to that stage and it didn't."
Training camp was where Marchand first started to make his name last season. Marchand had skated in just 20 games with Boston in 2009-10 (he recorded just one assist), but the team kept him around as one of its"black aces" during its ill-fated playoff run. That gave him the confidence to know the organization believed in him.
Last fall, he was among a handful of players competing for one of the final roster spots before opening night in Prague. With his patented brand of agitating – a playing style reminiscent of former Bruins forward Ken"The Rat" Linseman – Marchand earned his way onto that trip with a solid preseason and then found a home on Boston's fourth line alongside Gregory Campbell
and Shawn Thornton
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As the season wore on, Marchand proved that there was more to his game than an ability to irritate opponents. Halfway through the season, he finally got a shot in a more prominent and offensive role on a line with center Patrice Bergeron
and Mark Recchi
. By the end of the regular season, Marchand had scored 21 goals, including five short-handed scores (which ranked third in the NHL). He was a legitimate candidate for the Calder Trophy, but he wasn't done yet. Marchand erupted for 11 goals in 25 postseason games, including five goals in the Stanley Cup Final (including two in the Cup-clinching Game 7 victory).
Despite his lofty rookie-year accomplishments, Marchand says he's not resting on his laurels. However, unlike last season when he predicted he'd score 20 goals, he's going to keep his statistical targets to himself this time around.
"I think the main reason for saying that in the first place is I was fighting to even get on the team and I figured maybe that would help, just plant a seed in their heads," Marchand said."There's always room for every player to improve. I think a big part that I still want to improve is my defensive game. Even watching guys like (Bergeron) and (David Krejci
), and they're a couple of the top guys on our team and in the League and they're still defensively strong. That's another big area that I want to improve. But you can always improve every area of your game."
The 2010-11 season included some growing pains for Marchand, as he searched for the line between being a player whose agitating gets the better of opponents and one that hurts his own team. In a loss on Long Island on March 11, coach Claude Julien
punished Marchand for a couple bad penalties in that game and one the night before against Buffalo by benching the rookie for the third period. A few days later, Marchand found himself on the wrong side of NHL discipline. He received a two-game suspension for his blow to the head from behind on Columbus Blue Jackets
forward R.J. Umberger
The season also included Marchand making a golf-swing gesture toward the Toronto bench during one heated game and hitting Montreal defenseman James Wisniewski
late after an icing call to set off a melee in another emotional Northeast Division contest.
Over the course of last season, Marchand admitted he was still learning. And those lessons are continuing to sink in.
"I feel like throughout the year I got better at controlling my emotions," he said."There were times during the playoffs that the got the best of me. But for the most part the coaching staff did a great job of leading me in the right direction. And I felt as the older you get the more mature you get, and the more you play in this league the better I'll be able to learn how to control it. I'm still a young player, I'm still trying to learn every day. That's all part of the game."
He better not control his emotions too much, because that's what the Bruins and fans love most about him. The Bruins' faithful showed their love for him last spring by voting him the distinguished Seventh Player Award as the player who's exceeded all expectations. And now the Bruins have rewarded him with a lavish contract.
"He was a terrific performer, a clutch performer," said Chiarelli."He loves to play and loves to play on the edge. We're really excited to have him with the Bruins for two more years. I told Brad today at the end of last year he told me he was going to score 20 goals and he scored more than that. And I told him I was proud of him and he deserved this and he's a good kid and we're happy to have him in the mix."