The ongoing saga of Brad Marchand’s dance with the Boston Bruins brass has reached the level of absurdity. No, I take that back. It passed absurdity a long time ago. Adam Mcquaid was re-signed and his existing deal wasn’t set to expire until next summer. Joe Corvo was acquired a long time ago. Sure forty goal man Benoit Pouliot was signed just days after the cup was raised. And just in-case anyone has forgotten it the 35 year Chris Clark who has a history of knee injuries was invited to training camp. Just today, the team extended Providence Bruins defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk, who went -8 with one goal last season.
While at least one of those moves was something that could be a serious positive impact on the team. Doing all of these ahead of signing a key forward who’s contract has expired is very much like sliding a chair under the doorknob to your backdoor to keep burglars out while leaving the front door, and every large window open and a trail of hundred dollar bills from the mantle to the curb. When you draft a player who’s somewhere around seventeen, what your drafting is potential and work ethic. The two don’t march in lockstep and one often fails to materialize. In the case of Brad Marchand we saw sports of both two seasons ago. Last season, when no one expected him to make the team, and he started the year in the pressbox before a stay on the fourth line. In January he was key to Patrice Bergeron earning first star in the NHL. In the post season he scored in every round of the playoffs.
So what gives? Are they hoping he might be versatile? Let’s see, he scored short handed, even strength, and on the powerplay. He delivered hits, drew penalties and blocked shots. He produced in the early season, the midseason and the late season. He produced on the fourth line, he produced with and without Bergeron on a production line. He had two goals in game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. He handled the media well. I suspect his jersey and tshirt have been selling quite well too.
So what’s the hold up? We know if they got the extensions for Bodnarchuk and Mcquaid done, a: the nice folks in the NHL offices are still talking to them and b: someone with the authority to sign deals has been sober enough to do so on at least two occasions. Regardless of what the hold up is, a deal could and should have been done by now. In the present day NHL there is no such thing as an unmovable contract. This applies doubly to Stanley Cup champions. If Scott Gomez and Brian Campbell can be moved with contracts that were deemed unmovable when they were signed, I can’t imagine any number that could be hung on Marchand that kept the team near the cap as currently configured.
Did Marchand suddenly become unmanageable? See above. Dany Heatley has been moved and has done far less in the playoffs. Nikita Filatov was made team captain of one of the Russian national teams despite the circumstances with the BlueJackets, then he too was traded to a rebuilding team. If there’s one thing we’ve all learned from watching the NHL the last few years it’s that if there is talent there’s a taker. So assuming the number is five million a year. That’s less than Kessel got, and Marchand has proved he’s willing to work hard with and without the puck, and be creative going to the net.
So what’s the worst that happens? With Savard’s cap space even Chara can’t reach the cap ceiling. If the number proves too much exile him to Florida where Dale Tallon is doing his usual bang-up job of cap management. Or ship him out to St Louis where he and Sobotka can shop in all the same clothing stores. Heck, given the biggest trade the Avalanche made over the summer Marchand could probably fetch a first, a second a prospect and the luxury box revenue.
Whatever the reason Marchand isn’t signed at this point, even if it is part of a sign and trade is no longer a good one. Camp opens in days. It is now a distraction to the team as well as fans and management. Why should he go into camp with his usual fire if he’s got no safety net? What about the other players? What about putting lines together, penalty kill use, and all the other roles he played? Then there is the question of how much turnover is a good thing. Given the likelihood Marchand doesn’t return that will be Marchand, Ryder, Recchi off the forward lines. That’s a lot of ice time across even strength and special teams. Essentially it is a whole forward line lost, for a team that struggled on the powerplay, and isn’t over blessed with speed letting Marchand go or having him sit out without a contract is absurd.