It hasn't been a spectacularly long summer for hockey fans in Boston. It certainly hasn't been long enough for their team, which has celebrated at length with Lord Stanley's Cup in tow at most of their engagements.
It hasn't been a long summer for Michael Ryder, who signed a new deal with Dallas and went on to hold some high-falootin' fiesta atop a Newfoundland roof deck, watching with horror as the Cup fell to the deck, mutilated.
Nor for Tomas Kaberle, who was the benefit of a generous overpayment from Carolina that'll ensure he's financially well-off until 2015. Nor for Mark Recchi, who hoisted the Cup and walked off into the sunset, despite the pleads of former linemate Patrice Bergeron.
It was a long summer for Brad Marchand, however, mostly because he had to spend so much of it looking for his shirt. It seems that he's found it, but what he hasn't found is a new contract from the Bruins, who seem to be at odds with agent Wade Arnott - who also represents Phil Kessel - in regards to how much the 23-year old winger is really worth. Marchand, apparently, doesn't care; he's said on numerous occasions that he just wants to play hockey and that he just wants to play for the Bruins.
Peter Chiarelli, who spent the summer being lauded for his building a Champion and keeping it together, is suddenly walking a very tight rope with Marchand, whom teammates and fans love, and opponents wish they could don the same colors as.
But Marchand isn't the real problem. With Shawn Thornton and Gregory Campbell (among others) unrestricted free agents after the 2011-12 season and with David Krejci and Tuukka Rask RFAs after the year, Chiarelli needs to be a little bit more aware of his public image. If Arnott wants another 500k for Marchand, Chiarelli shouldn't think so long about giving it to him.
Sure, the looming labor uncertainty doesn't help matters, and Chiarelli wants to be sure that his team is safe when the salary cap likely decreases heading into the 2012-13 season (if there is one), so his concerns aren't unfounded. But when Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton are unrestricted free agents after the 2012-13 campaign, do the Bruins really want the taste of bad contract talks with 2011's spark plug in the mouths of their two top wingers?
I don't doubt that Chiarelli's doing what he's doing with an eye to the future, and a careful look around Ristuccia Arena these days might just unveil Marchand's successor in the form of a 5-10, 200-pound, 19-year old center named Jared Knight (of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I've been in the camp that Knight's earning himself a roster spot this year for some time). Knight's size and scrappy demeanor are similar to Marchand's, only the Battle Creek, Michigan native has a bit bigger frame and more of a knack for the net. He could play the role of instigator.
You're not going to ask one of the cornerstones of your franchise's future to come in at the beginning of his rookie year (remember that, unlike Marchand, Knight's had just three games at the AHL level) and score 20, set up another 20 and piss off everyone wearing a different color sweater for 82 games. You just can't do that.
The Marchand saga has been going on all summer. It's been the one uncertainty in a summer of sure things. And it's getting really, really old. He wants to be in Boston. Boston wants him in Black and Gold. For a team that just got a $4 million check in the form of Marc Savard's inability to play in 2011-12 (and, we all know, anytime after that), some of the wealth needs to be shared.
Not because Marchand needs it. But because the team, present and future, needs to know that it's there if they earn it.