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Two-year contract shows that Bruins are sold on fiery Marchand as a clutch performer

It was an enjoyable offseason for Stanley Cup winner Brad Marchand, who acknowledges that he celebrated heartily. It was an enjoyable offseason for Stanley Cup winner Brad Marchand, who acknowledges that he celebrated heartily. (Winslow Townson/Associated Press)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / September 15, 2011

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In the days following the Bruins’ Stanley Cup win, pictures of Brad Marchand (usually shirtless) were just a click away. On breakup day, when the Bruins gathered at TD Garden after parading the Cup around Fenway Park, Marchand was recovering in the players’ lounge. He had been laid low by celebrations that inflicted more damage than any bag skate.

“Maybe I went a little harder than I should have,’’ Marchand said upon his return to Boston last week. “But it’s something we’ve been dreaming about our whole lives. That’s all it was.’’

Yesterday, the 23-year-old winger earned 5 million more reasons to celebrate. The native of Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia, signed a two-year, $5 million extension with the Bruins.

Marchand will earn $2 million this season and $3 million in 2012-13. He will remain a restricted free agent at the extension’s conclusion. He will have arbitration rights then, which he lacked this time.

“From the get-go, I never was going to miss a day of camp,’’ Marchand said in a conference call. “I never wanted that. I wanted to be here the first day and show everyone I wanted to be here.

“I wanted to go through the whole camp with the guys and be part of the team. I’m very happy it didn’t have to come down to [a holdout] and that we could get a deal done before camp.’’

Marchand’s extension was framed primarily by the two-year, $5.75 million extension that Logan Couture signed with San Jose. Couture, one of three finalists for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year last season, scored 32 goals while playing on his entry-level contract. Couture, the eighth overall pick of the 2007 draft, projects to be a first-line NHLer.

Marchand, selected in the third round in 2006, doesn’t have Couture’s offensive upside. In fact, there remains debate on what Marchand ultimately will be.

He could be a consistent No. 2 left wing, as he was for half of last year. Or he could backtrack and settle into a lesser role. His extension pegs him as a top-six contributor.

“It took a little while, but I’m very happy to have signed Brad to two years,’’ said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. “He was a terrific performer in the playoffs, a clutch performer. He loves to play. He plays on the edge.’’

There is no debate that Marchand does not do things in moderation.

As an NHL rookie, Marchand entered training camp as the 13th forward. After his team’s final game, Marchand had laid claim to a second-line position.

In Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, Marchand turned Vancouver’s Daniel Sedin into a speed bag with a series of jabs. As he cuffed the sniper repeatedly with his left fist, Marchand had Sedin’s head jerking back.

A game later, Marchand was busy scoring two goals, setting up a third, and ending his night with the Stanley Cup held over his head.

On March 16, Marchand was suspended for two games for elbowing Columbus’s R.J. Umberger in the back of the head. He accepted the suspension and admonished himself for throwing the elbow.

Two weeks later, Marchand went over the line again, this time with a golf swing in front of the Toronto bench.

For Bruins coach Claude Julien, minding Marchand requires masterful handling of his leash - letting it out for the pest to serve his shift-disturbing duties, but jerking it back when he goes too far.

And now, with a Stanley Cup on his list of achievements, Marchand might become even more insufferable to opponents. It’s one thing to chirp, beak, and lip when you’re a rookie scrub. It’s entirely another after you’ve won a Cup and scored 11 playoff goals.

Chirping becomes that much more abrasive when you can waggle your ring finger instead of your middle one, or point skyward at a championship banner.

“It’s not something you want to throw out there - you might jinx yourself in the future,’’ Marchand said with a smile when asked how often he’d reference the Cup. “If someone has a good chirp on you, you can keep it in your back pocket.

“We’ll see. It’ll probably be broken out a couple times.’’

The summer also served to intensify the chatter on how Marchand’s role will evolve. He and the Bruins debated over the worth of his second contract.

“These deals coming off entry-level, they’re hard to negotiate on both sides,’’ said Chiarelli. “There’s an element where you don’t have a year of arbitration. They’re just sticky. There’s sticking points along the negotiations. We’ve seen some other players who’ve waited this long. It’s an area in the CBA where it’s a tough negotiating time for a player with that status.’’

Just a year ago, there would have been little surprise had Marchand been assigned to Providence for a third straight season. In 2009-10, as a second-year pro, Marchand had 13 goals and 19 assists in 34 AHL games. He was a first-line, all-situations player in Providence.

But that same year, Marchand managed just one assist in 20 NHL appearances. As he entered his third pro training camp, he was never guaranteed a big-league paycheck. Yes, it helped Marchand’s case that Marc Savard and Marco Sturm were not ready to start the 2010-11 season. It was Marchand’s job, however, to prove he was more than a fringe NHLer.

“When I came in last year, I was very nervous about the situation,’’ Marchand said. “I think there were 13 or 14 guys on one-way contracts. But there were a couple injuries.

“Jordan Caron was up and he was playing great. A couple other young guys were playing great. So it was a very nerve-racking camp last year. It was definitely a huge battle. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to start. But it was a very tough camp.’’

Last year’s camp was Marchand’s first step in backing up what often gets him in trouble: his mouth. During exit meetings at the conclusion of 2009-10, Marchand informed Julien and Chiarelli that he would score 20 goals the following season.

When the Bruins broke camp, Marchand had earned a fourth-line spot with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton. By January, he had bade his fourth-line mates farewell.

This year, Marchand will be riding alongside usual center Patrice Bergeron.

“He’s showed what he can do,’’ Bergeron said. “His confidence was beyond his years in the playoffs. The way he handled himself and the way he helped our line was huge. Hopefully he’s there on my side again this year.’’

If Marchand starts the season with Bergeron, he should improve his production. Last year, Marchand had 21 goals and 20 assists in 77 games while averaging 13 minutes and 59 seconds of ice time. In the playoffs, Marchand popped in 11 goals and 8 assists, with his ice time increasing to 16:46 per game.

Last season, it wasn’t until Jan. 8 that Marchand earned a promotion to the second line. This season, he will start there. He should be killing penalties regularly with Bergeron, and because of his strength along the boards, above-average shot, and willingness to enter the danger zones, Marchand could be trusted with more power-play action in 2011-12. If that happens, Marchand could score 25-30 goals.

“It changes your whole mind-set,’’ he said. “Coming into this year, I’m not worried about just making the team and trying to figure out a way to crack the 13-man lineup. Or even be the 13th guy and try and work my way in.

“I’m more worried about coming in, improving my year, and improving to become a better player. You have a lot more confidence coming into this season.

“That’s the mind-set I have. I want to come in and be better.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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