The Bruins just got one heck of a deal in signing winger Brad Marchand to a four-year, $18 million contract extension Friday -- regardless of the likelihood of a salary rollback from the players under a new collective bargaining agreement. It's possible that Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs -- a known hardliner for the owners -- could end up not having to pay Marchand the full amount they agreed upon Friday, but let's look at the hockey side of things here.
The 24-year-old Marchand's on-the-edge style of play earned him a fine and two suspensions last season and has at times landed him in the doghouse of Bruins coach Claude Julien, but there's a feeling that he has learned from and responded to his mistakes.
"He went through a couple of incidents last year and through the disciplinary process where we engaged in a couple of philosophical discussions with that office," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said in a teleconference with the media Friday. "But I think that Brad recognizes that part of his game is a valuable part of his game and he's a smart enough player to know that as you get older and learn the ropes a little bit more, you can tweak your game a little bit. Brad had a good year last year but I know he had some struggles. But he will continue to draw that fine line and he's certainly aware of it and that the line has moved a bit. I like the whole package, though."
Players of Marchand's pedigree at such a young age are hard to come by in the modern NHL. The league has clamped down on borderline play that can move beyond physical to dirty. To find a Claude Lemieux or Esa Tikkanen in today's NHL is a rarity. But in only two full NHL seasons, Marchand has scored 20 goals twice, helped lead his team to the Stanley Cup with 19 points in 25 playoff games (including two goals and an assist in the Game 7 clincher at Vancouver) during the 2011 Cup run, and still found a way to walk the line and lure opponents into the penalty box. Let's not forget he is one of the team's best penalty killers as well.
Marchand didn't become "a whole package" overnight. It's happened via his constant willingness to learn and evolve. His steady progression convinced Chiarelli that Marchand is worth this extension.
"He's like a sponge that way and it's an important progression in being a successful NHL player," Chiarelli said. "You have to learn how to adapt and he's been really good at that. And now he's still 24, so he's still in the prime of his career. It was an interesting journey to watch him get to this point, and as I said earlier, I like the whole package and he plays the way that we want guys to play, in their own way, but to be aggressive and to be strong on the puck and to be enthusiastic."
Chiarelli also acknowledged Friday that he and the 29 other NHL GMs have been trending toward rewarding young players based on potential in their second and third contracts. With this extension for Marchand, Chiarelli and the Bruins didn't just reward potential; they rewarded a proven player who is continually improving. Marchand is and will be worth every cent.