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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Boston Bruins Brad Marchand: re-signing when and how much?

Brad Marchand
Brad Marchand remains unsigned as of late August. Like other prominent unsigned RFAs (Drew Doughty, Luke Schenn, and Zach Bogosian), Marchand has no rights to arbitration because he is a first time RFA. Simply put, the only leverage he has is the negotiating skill of his agent and withholding his signature.

Boston Globe sports reporter, Fluto Shinzawa chimed in earlier in the month (after interviewing Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli), giving his opinion on what the term and size of Marchand's deal may turn out to be:
For both the Bruins and Marchand, a two-year contract (annual salary in the $2.25 million range) would be the best fit. Although Marchand chipped in 21 regular-season goals and added 11 more in the playoffs, the winger has just one year of such production on his NHL résumé. If the Bruins opt for a long-term deal, there is risk that Marchand falls off his development curve. For Marchand, sacrificing term now could translate to a bigger haul with his third contract. If Marchand’s numbers continue to progress during a two-year window, his negotiating power (especially with arbitration rights) becomes far stronger.
Shinzawa recently added a quick update on the negotiations (or lack thereof):
Only crickets are being heard on the Brad Marchand front, with neither side amenable to disclosing information regarding negotiations.

Perhaps Craig Custance's excerpt from an email exchange with Marchand's agent Wade Arnott, will shed some light on these invisible negotiations: “Discussions with the Bruins are ongoing but nothing is imminent. We continue to work towards a resolution.” Well its quite possible that the reason nothing is 'imminent' is due to Chiarelli being on vacation for the last few weeks: "Tomorrow (Aug 1), Peter Chiarelli will travel to Ottawa, his hometown. Later in August, the Bruins general manager will travel to Quebec, where he’ll chase down brook trout."

Back to Wade Arnott though; some may recognize that name from a couple of years ago as the agent for Phil Kessel when the former Bruin refused to re-sign with Boston, and instead wanted to play for Toronto. Kessel was also an RFA at the time, and seemingly had very little leverage in getting out of Boston or even choosing his future destination. However, Wade Arnott worked with his client, to get Kessel exactly what he wanted -- a first class ticket to Toronto.

I'm not so sure Wade Arnott's relationship with Boston management is entirely healthy as a result of that Kessel incident. Nevertheless, what's clearly different about the Marchand's situation is that he seems to be quite content with Beantown:
Brad Marchand
“I love it (in Boston)...Right now, we’re just kind of getting into (negotiations)...It’s been a long summer and people have been on vacation and enjoying the Cup so we’re going to start getting into it pretty heavily here.”
Marchand would have likely been a quick re-sign had he not had such a spectacular playoffs. His regular season numbers would have placed him nicely in the ~$2.25M range where newly born 20 goal wingers seem to slot. However, with Bruins cup victory due in large part to Marchand's contribution, his agent has the right to ask for more.

Where in the regular season Marchand didn't even play 12 minutes of even strength TOI per game, during the playoffs he was the third most used forward on Boston, with almost 15 minutes TOI per game. He kept up his PK average of about 1:30 during both segments of the season, and got only a slight bump in PP time during the playoffs. Despite the lack of PP time, he was the 3rd highest scoring forward on the Bruins. In other words, Marchand was mighty at even strength.

How much more Arnott can ask for Marchand, no one knows -- but considering the playoff run, I wouldn't be surprised if the Marchand camp is suggesting in the $4M range hoping to negotiate down to ~$3M. My guess is that a two year deal will average out to a cap hit of ~$2.8M. What's absolutely clear though, there's nothing like some external pressure to get both sides to move more quickly to the eventual compromise. In this case, it would be the start of training camp looming.

Tyler Seguin
Other than Marchand, the rest of the roster players are signed and ready to for a return engagement. Tyler Seguin is the biggest wild card. An upward natural swing in the second overall pick's production is expected. The level of increased output will determine if he'll adequately replace Michael Ryder, who had twice as many points in a similar number of games last season. Ryder, though, was not retained and left for Dallas as a UFA.

Benoit Pouliot could make up the difference if Seguin fails to deliver. He didn't get the ice time last season, when he played for Montreal, one would expect of a player of his points per TOI rate. The former fourth overall draft pick of the Minnesota Wild, has a tendency to play when he wants to, ie, a player that the coach doesn't necessarily trust with big minutes.

Relinquished Players
Mark Recchi (RW)811434481316:06Retired
Michael Ryder (RW)79182341-114:29UFA, DAL
Tomas Kaberle (D)8244347422:06UFA, CAR
Shane Hnidy (D)3000-214:46UFA

And based on that, the team could probably use still yet another winger -- perhaps a Mark Recchi replacement if you will. And it looks as though GM Chiarelli has similar ideas judging by his comments to the Boston Globe before he went on vacation:
“One of those things...Maybe the guy will get a contract elsewhere, or maybe he’ll retire. So, in fairness to him, I’d rather not say who we’ve got in mind."
My guess is that the player Chiarelli had in mind was New Englander, Chris Drury, who unfortunately was forced to retire due to the compound affects of injuries to his knees. His ability to perform at the level he was accustomed to had diminished significantly. Perhaps another UFA forward will get a camp invite now -- likely a veteran type who will not get a contract without a thorough evaluation.

38-year old Cory Stillman is one of those remaining unsigned UFA forwards. And he also brings Stanley Cup experience similar to Drury. However, Stillman may be holding out for a contract up front, rather than simply accepting a tryout to training camp. He may feel his level of production last season is at least deserving of that.

Boston Bruins
Left WingCapGPPTOICenterCapGPPTOIRight WingCapGPPTOI
Milan Lucic$4.1796216:34David Krejci$3.8756218:51Nathan Horton$4.0805316:17
Brad Marchand~2.8774113:59Patrice Bergeron$5.0805717:53Rich Peverley$1.3824118:15
Jordan Caron$1.123712:40Chris Kelly$2.1812815:24Tyler Seguin$3.6742212:12
Benoit Pouliot$1.1793011:32Greg Campbell$1.1802913:26Shawn Thornton$0.8792010:04
Daniel Paille$1.1431311:18
Left DefenseCapGPPTOIRight DefenseCapGPPTOIGoalCapGPWSV%
Zdeno Chara$6.9814425:26Joe Corvo$2.3824024:46Tim Thomas$5.05735.938
D. Seidenberg$3.3813223:32Johnny Boychuk$1.9691620:30Tuukka Rask$1.32911.918
Andrew Ference$2.3701517:58Adam McQuaid$0.6671514:51
Matt Bartkowski$0.9609:10Steven Kampfer$0.9381017:43
LTIRMarc Savard$4.0251015:48
BuyoutPatrick Eaves$0.3
PnltyBonus Carry Ovr$1.1
Salary Cap$64,300,000
Cap Payroll$58,278,333Bonuses: $3.23M
Cap Space$6,021,667Roster Size: 23 players
~ projected cap hit

With regard to Marc Savard's concussion recovery, the situation seems pretty dire. Chiarelli said on July 31: "As a layperson, I’d be very surprised if Marc will be playing this coming year." Savard is still experiencing headaches (career threatening). The The 34-year-old center is signed through 2016-17. If he's truly out, Savard will go back on long-term injured reserve (LTIR) once new season starts. Thus, that's where I've placed him in my roster projection above.

The news is much better regarding Nathan Horton who suffered that nasty concussion in the Stanley Cup Finals hit from Aaron Rome. Boston reporter explains: @MurphysLaw74 Jimmy Murphy TwitterNathan Horton just told media at Milan Lucic's softball game he is good to go for 2011-12 season. Symptom free. Working out but no skating.

Joe Corvo & David Krejci
Arguably the most prominent name lost in free agency was that of Tomas Kaberle. However, when you consider the addition of Joe Corvo, the negative affect is certainly mitigated. Corvo is a right-handed shooter to boot, something that may give him more chemistry with left-handed Zdeno Chara on the powerplay, which was dismal even after Kaberle's arrival.

Boston PP % was 11.4 for 14th out of 16 playoff teams. During the regular season it was 16.2% (20th of 30 teams). What helped overcome it was Tim Thomas's goaltending especially during the last three series, and Marchand's even strength goals. I'm not sure if Corvo will improve the BOS PP though, considering Carolina's PP was 15.9%, tied for 23rd during the regular season. Corvo was the team leader in TOI among Carolina blueliners. In fact his TOI/GP was top 15 in the entire NHL, just like Kaberle's.

The difference is that Corvo also plays the PK. That combo made him a top 15 d-man in TOI overall. Production was similar, both 82 games, Kaberle 47 points, 25 on PP and Corvo 40 points, 23 on PP. There was though a wide gulf in the plus minus category: Corvo with a -14, while Kaberle had a respectable +4. Conversely though, when it came to their Give Away to Take Away ratio, Corvo was able to recover the puck at an astonishing high rate (Corvo 64GvA:60TkA; Kaberle: 70GvA:29TkA). Nevertheless, something tells Corvo's minutes will be much more "managed" in a Bruins jersey.

Zdeno Chara
Will we see another cup victory for the Bruins -- the start of a dynasty perhaps? They certainly haven't lost much from their Stanley Cup winning roster. Even without Savard, BOS was able to clutch victory from the jaws of defeat. A lot rides on the emotional willingness to overcome the obstacles. The Bruins showed incredible courage rising to the continuous challenges thrust in front of them, from devastating injuries, to defensive lapses leading to near series losing goals.

Even if Tyler Seguin, perhaps Boston's most talented player, takes a giant leap forward in development this season, the level of desire by the collective will be the critical element. The team does not have the blue print of a dynasty. Chiarelli may well have to make a significant late season addition to give the team an emotional and goal scoring boost in the final half of the season. He certainly has the cap space to accomplish the task even as early as October. Impact players likely available for the right price include Oiler Ales Hemsky, Islander Blake Comeau, and Coyote Lee Stempniak.

Ales Hemsky
Hemsky to Boston though is not a new rumor. He was likely offered by EDM when they were looking to make a deal at the 2010 draft for the second overall pick, in an attempt to get their hands on Tyler Seguin. There may still be a way of getting Hemsky in a BOS uniform. Chiarelli showed he is not opposed to trading picks and prospects for an impact rental: Tomas Kaberle at  the 2011 trade deadline case in point. Hemsky would theoretically improve the PP, a missing element that may be harder to overcome in the playoffs this coming season.

Either way, congrats Boston on an impressive comeback...

...and as a Canucks fan, that wasn't easy to say.  ;)  

Update 9/5/11:

@TSNRyanRishaug Ryan Rishaug Tweet:
Chris Clark accepts tryout with Bruins.

New Englander, Chris Clark is a native of South Windsor CT, which is just outside of Hartford, about an hour and a half drive from Boston MA to the east. Find Clark's stats below.

Chris Clark