Brad Marchand’s 37-goal season while on the brink of free agency made him a top priority for the Bruins, and Boston made the right move in paying up to keep Marchand around long-term.
Brad Marchand has played like a bonafide star over the past few seasons, and now the 28-year-old winger is set to be paid like one, too.
While Marchand is away on World Cup duty and awaiting a date with Team Europe in the final alongside his Canadian teammates, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Marchand and the Bruins have come to terms on an eight-year, $49-million deal that will lock him up until he’s about ready to hang up his skates.
The contract includes a full no-movement clause in the first five seasons and a limited no-trade clause after that, according to ESPN’s Craig Custance. CapFriendly reported the deal has an interesting structure, as well, giving Marchand almost equal dollars in base salary and signing bonuses.
For the Bruins and their fans, the signing is a sigh of relief. There has never been any real speculation that Marchand would head elsewhere, but recent contract talks haven’t been kind to Boston, and that was reason enough for some fans to be concerned. Ahead of 2015-16, tough negotiations led to the trade of promising young blueliner Dougie Hamilton and an inability to come to terms with Loui Eriksson led the 30-goal man to head to the Vancouver Canucks in free agency this past July.
Marchand is about to enter the final season of his four-year, $18-million contract that pays him $4.5 million annually, and his play this past season made him a top priority for the Bruins. Marchand had previously been a consistent goal-scoring threat for the Bruins, topping the 25-goal plateau twice and remaining at or above 20 goals in the five years prior to 2015-16, but he had his star turn during the past campaign with a 37-goal, 61-point year.
While the massive leap in production — and going from consecutive seasons of 25 and 24 goals to netting 37 tallies is a significant jump — could cause some to think that Marchand might have caught lightning in a bottle, his play at the World Cup certainly doesn’t lend any credibility to that belief. He’s playing alongside some of the game’s best players, sure, but Marchand has been a force on the top line for Team Canada, scoring three goals and five points in four games at the tournament.
Better yet, though, it’s not as if Marchand suddenly came up with a hot hand. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 15th in goals with 86 tallies and his 156 points are tied for the 66th-most of all players over that same span. Though his career year can definitely be credited with rocketing him up the scoring list, it’s not as if it came out of left field, either.
During the 2015-16 campaign, Marchand shot at a 14.8 percent clip en route to his big offensive numbers. Remarkably, that’s actually below Marchand’s career average of 15 percent, and the biggest reason for his up-turn in production was an increased role and, in turn, a huge jump in shots on goal. This past season, Marchand put 250 pucks on net, which is a full 70 extra shots than his previous career high of 180.
Marchand’s cap hit is more than fair value for a player of his calibre, too, especially one that offers more than just goal-scoring ability. Marchand contributes as much on the defensive side of the puck as he does offensively, boasting a Corsi for percentage of 57 percent with evenly spread zone starts since the start of the 2013-14, as well as an average of 1:38 per game on the penalty kill over the past three campaigns.
Come the 2016-17 campaign, Marchand and his $6.125 million average salary won’t even land within the top 50 highest paid players in the league. And he could slip even further down the list as some outstanding and pending free agents ink deals ahead of the coming season and into next off-season.
More importantly, the deal works within the Bruins’ cap structure. With Marchand signed, the Bruins will head into the next off-season with roughly $13.1 million in cap space and no major free agents to be concerned with. Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak have both started to come into their own, but neither will be up for a massive raise, and fresh faces or low-cost, high-potential signings can be used to fill out the lineup.
The one potential drawback with Marchand’s contract, of course, is that a long-term deal for him means he’ll be 37 by the time his contract is up. Paying him $6.125 million per season late in his career might not be ideal, but it also shouldn’t be an issue as the cap slowly increases over the lifetime of the contract.
Outside of off-ice success, it was Boston’s biggest job this campaign to find a way to get Marchand locked up to make sure there was no way he’d be heading elsewhere by the time the 2017-18 season rolled around. The new deal does that, and now the Bruins can enter the season with their focus solely on righting the ship and getting to the post-season after two consecutive years on the outside looking in. They’ll be glad to know Marchand plans to be right there alongside them, too.
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