For the most part, the Boston Bruins have had a quiet offseason.
They said their polite goodbyes to defenseman Tomas Kaberle and right wing Michael Ryder, they welcomed aboard Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot, and they gave Adam McQuaid a (supposedly) healthy raise, signing him for three more seasons beginning in 2011-12.
The McQuaid signing was a welcome reward, with the big 24-year-old playing well enough to render Mark Stuart, a tough, dependable defenseman who was a leader in the locker room, unnecessary. Stuart was traded to Atlanta along with Blake Wheeler in exchange for the versatile Rich Peverley, and his status as a footnote in a Stanley Cup season was cemented.
But McQuaid’s signing was also interesting considering the status of Brad Marchand, a restricted free agent who has yet to sign.
Marchand has been extended his qualifying offer, tying him to the Bruins and limiting other clubs to offer sheets should they want to pry the pesky left wing out of Boston.
Marchand is the kind of player opposing teams hate to play against, but every team not-so-secretly drools over. A quick skater with a good touch on the puck, great work ethic and no regard for the personal comforts of the opposition, Marchand is a thorn in the side of the opposition. Occasionally, he slips over the edge — look no further than his deserved two-game suspension from his hit on Columbus’ R.J. Umberger in March.
But he’s young, he plays hard and he was a vital cog in a Stanley Cup champion. He showed immediate chemistry skating on Patrice Bergeron’s left side and he’s become immensely popular in Boston, both in the stands and the dressing room.
So far, general manager Peter Chiarelli has been mum on the status of the contract negotiations, only stating that they’re in talks and he wants to get something done. And he has a history of getting things done in these situations. Where previous regimes would leave restricted free agents kicking and screaming for a new deal, Chiarelli has locked up young players in the past — first with Bergeron, and later with new deals for Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, all without any real fanfare or incident.
My prediction? Marchand signs on for two-to-three more seasons, somewhere in the range of $5-6 million over the course of three years. After one full season (and some spare change of 2009-10) in the NHL, this puts him slightly behind where Lucic and Krejci signed after two or three full seasons, but still, a healthy raise from his 2010-11 number of $600,000
The biggest thing for Bruins fans to take away, though, is that this will get done. No one has held out in the Chiarelli era (save for whatever it was that Phil Kessel did). More importantly, no player under the Bruins control that Peter Chiarelli has wanted to sign has slipped away.
Marchand will sign, sometime before camp begins in September. When, exactly, that is, becomes your best guess.