By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — What does it take to make famous motor-mouth Brad Marchand stop yapping?
Ask him about his agent’s contract-extension talks with the Bruins.
“I know everyone wants an update and everything,” Marchand said after taking part in an informal practice for the first time at Warrior Ice Arena on Thursday. “But I really can’t comment on what’s been going on. But we are talking and hopefully we’ll figure something out.”
Marchand is entering the last season of a four-year contract that carries a $4.5 million charge against the NHL salary cap. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign a new deal with the Bruins.
Coming off a career-best 37-goal season, Marchand could become even more attractive to 29 other teams if he matches his production from 2015-16. Some players might find playing in a contract year to be a distraction or an undue source of pressure. Last season Loui Eriksson, who wound up leaving the Bruins for the Vancouver Canucks as a free agent in July, admitted to being burdened by his contract status. The questions kept coming, the negotiations kept going and even though he scored 30 goals and finished second on the Bruins with 63 points, there were dry spells in his season. The Bruins would be wise to not put Marchand through an Eriksson-like ringer.
Marchand, though, believes Eriksson handled himself well last season and could be a player to emulate.
“I think Loui dealt with it very well last year and he had the team on his mind and just worrying about playing his best every night to help the team,” Marchand said. “It can drive you a bit. I think you saw that with Loui. Ultimately that helps the team. He really helped us last year, that was great. But the goal is to help this team win and I’m going to do what it takes to do that.”
Marchand made it clear Thursday he wants to re-sign with the Bruins and be part of “an incredible organization.” He didn’t put a deadline on contract talks, so there’s a chance he’ll be playing with the contract hanging over his head. This season could be both a test of his ability to produce the way he did last season and a test of his maturity to handle the pressure. So few star players hit unrestricted free agency these days that if there’s a slightest chance a player of Marchand’s caliber might hit the open market, he’s going to have to talk about it, hear about it and worry about it.
If there’s a possibility trying to match last year’s production is going to stress out Marchand, he has a way to handle it.
“The main thing is to not try to chase it. I think when you chase something like that then things will go wrong and you stop playing the game the right way,” Marchand said. “I’m not so much focused on hitting that number as I am playing a good game and being a good player for the team, being strong defensively and playing my role the way they want me to do it. I’m sure if I didn’t get back there, as long as I played well and did the right things, then they’ll still be happy with my game. So it’s more about being the right player for the team than it is hitting a certain number because when you do that, you may start to cheat and play the wrong way and that can ultimately affect the team.”
Marchand could see an increase in power-play time this season to help his point total. He might get a chance to wear a letter, at least part-time, to bump up his leadership credentials. It would also help his stock if the Bruins can return to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three years.
The World Cup of Hockey 2016 will also give Marchand a chance to flaunt his talents on a big stage and boost his value. In other words, the Bruins have to break with recent trends of letting popular, high-end players leave and get Marchand locked up before it’s too late.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.