It’s another year, another international tournament in which another team’s winger plays well with Sidney Crosby, and another day in which the NHL rumour mill cannot help itself. Boston Bruins left winger Brad Marchand, also known as The Little Ball of Hate (apologies to Pat Verbeek who was originally given the glorious nickname), has established himself as not only a terror along the boards, but now a scoring threat. Flanking the indomitable Sidney Crosby, Marchand has helped Crosby and Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron electrify Team Canada in the World Cup.
Marchand, who has a current cap hit of $4.5 million, scored 37 goals last season and will be a free agent after this season. So, naturally the rumour mill is beginning to churn out potentials like E! churns out untalented Kardashians. Marchand plays well with Crosby, therefor, the Penguins MUST be interested. Print it!
Let’s examine more closely. The Bruins have nearly $54 million committed to just 14 players next season and with GM Don Sweeney’s recent youth push, the 28-year-old Marchand could be trade bait this season. The Bruins will likely try to re-sign pending RFA’s Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak, who both figure to receive healthy raises from their current sub-million dollar salaries. The Bruins are also looking at the probability of needing a top defenseman, as Zdeno Chara is 39 years old and rapidly slowing.
The Penguins enter this season, just under the salary cap limit. Pascal Dupuis’ long-term injury designation also means the Penguins will spend more than the allotted 73 million dollar limit. In fact, the Penguins will on paper have the highest payroll in the NHL, $77,901,133.This season the Penguins are hamstrung by 36 year old Chris Kunitz’ $3.875 million dollar salary, and next season the cap situation will not improve. The Penguins have nearly $57 million committed to just 13 players, with pending RFA Brian Dumoulin in line for a healthy raise, Conor Sheary a modest bump, the looming Matt Murray contract discussion, and pending UFA Trevor Daley expecting a contract in the $4.5-$5 million dollar range.
The Penguins do not have much wiggle room.
Actually, the Penguins will need to make hard choices to simply to be cap compliant next season. If the Penguins sustain significant injuries this season, those choices could come earlier, in order to clear space for re-enforcements.
Tell me again how Marchand fits? Tie him into the incessant Fleury-Murray trade speculation? That is laughable as Boston has Tuukka Rask, 29, who has five years and $35 million left on his contract. And 37 goal scorers are not dealt for goalies, even starting ones.
Do the Penguins have much to give for a player under 30 years old scoring over 30 goals? Deals like the Devils fleecing of Edmonton, Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson, don’t happen often.
In reality, the Bruins will likely be able to re-sign Marchand to a $6million dollar deal, if they chose. The B’s will have enough cash to ink Marchand, lock up impending RFA’s, and even sign a free agent, or two. The Penguins will not even have enough cash to sign their full slate of valuable free agents.
The Penguins may well have interest in Marchand. How could they not after watching the pair’s chemistry in the World Cup. The Penguins once upon a time acquired Jarome Iginla because of his chemistry with Crosby in and international tournament. That didn’t go so well. Nor did the acquisition of Phil Kessel to play with Crosby, though Kessel found a home elsewhere in the Penguins lineup. Nor has the acquisition of any high value winger gone well since Marian Hossa, in 2008 (Billy Guerin’s chemistry with Crosby in 2009 was a happy surprise, nor was Guerin a high-value winger at that stage of his career).
Oh what could be this season, if the Penguins moved Olli Maatta’s $4 million salary and Kunitz’ near $4 million. A player like Marchand who is able to play with Crosby could ignite the Penguins captain to the Art Ross trophy. However, there aren’t any takers for Kunitz and the Penguins appear comfortable with Maatta’s salary.
It was the situation which befuddled previous GM Ray Shero and will likely be a stumper for Jim Rutherford. Of course, Rutherford did pull the rabbit out of the hat with the Daley for Rob Scuderi deal, and acquired Carl Hagelin for David Perron. Maybe ol’ JR has another trick up his sleeve, but it is highly improbably that trick could be for pending UFA, Marchand. In addition to the tough choices needed to clear enough space, the Penguins don’t have the assets to deal.
So, the Penguins will continue window shopping for players like Marchand but come home with players like Conor Sheary. Hey, at least the rumours are fun.