The Boston Bruins made two player signings last week that reinforced the club's vision for its players: try to keep the current group as intact as possible, but also provide for the future. As a Bruins fan, I appreciate this two-pronged tactic.
Signing Brad Marchand to a four-year contract extension, worth an average of $4.5 million a year and carrying a $4.5 million cap hit, reflects the desire to keep the band that won the 2011 Stanley Cup together as much as possible. It's a wise signing, too, because it does put Marchand in line for a raise, but doesn't break the bank--which is already strained for the Bruins this offseason.
In his second year in the NHL, Marchand avoided any hint of a sophomore slump. He put up 55 points--28 goals and 27 assists, career-bests in all three metrics--and had one of the best plus-minus ratings in the entire league. He had his first hat trick right before Christmas, a six-game points streak and the pleasure of introducing his forward line to a national audience as the best-looking line in the NHL.
During his rookie season, he exceeded expectations to the point where he won the team's Seventh Player Award, which is given to the player who goes above and beyond. His 41 points, including 21 goals, contributed to that designation and then he played an important role in the Bruins' Stanley Cup victory.
After re-signing Marchand, general manager Peter Chiarelli made it clear that he wants to keep the core of the team together for as long as possible. He did mention talking to other players about contracts, but kept the details out of it. For his part, Marchand said he was happy to be there with a team that feels like family, and that family appreciates what he brings to the table.
There could be problems down the road when attempting to re-sign other members of the 2011 championship team, though. Just take a look at this chart: next June, players like Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin could be teetering on the brink of free agency. All three of them play huge roles on the team and would all be worthy of re-signing. Plus, Tuukka Rask's one-year deal will be up and Anton Khudobin's deal will expire too. A little further down the road, Patrice Bergeron will need to be re-signed as well.
No one knows yet what the salary cap could look like, either. However, Chiarelli has already shown he can make it work in a less-than-ideal financial climate--Rask's deal, for example--so here's hoping that he can keep working his magic in the future.
Speaking of the future, the Bruins signed Malcolm Subban to an entry-level deal. Subban was the surprising selection in the first round of the 2012 draft, the pick who added a brotherly dimension to the Boston-Montreal rivalry, the goalie ranked first overall by Central Scouting. He's still going to need some development in the junior league before he's ready to go pro, but if his record to date is any indication, he could prove to be a very good asset down the road.
This past season, his 25-14-0 record with the Belleville Bulls included three shutouts, a .923 save percentage and a 2.50 goals-against average. That save percentage and GAA put him among the leading goalies in the OHL for those categories. He was also named Vaughn Goaltender of the Month for November 2011, a month where he put up a 9-1-0 record, two shutouts, a 1.48 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage.
Bruins brass sing his praises whenever possible, talking up his athleticism, enthusiasm and character--key values for being part of the Bruins organization. A few years from now, when Subban is starting to reach the age where he can graduate from junior hockey, it will be interesting to see how he has grown and learn where he might fit into the puzzle.
Even with the uncertainties of the near and distant future for Bruins fans, it's still nice to see the team working to achieve Chiarelli's goal of keeping the band together as much as possible.
Emma Harger is a Boston Bruins fan who especially likes Marchand's playing style--when he's being a good brat and not a bad brat, in coach Claude Julien's words, that is.
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