While the Bruins may not be playing any time soon, Peter Chiarelli made a strong play Friday by signing Brad Marchand  to a four-year, $18 million a year before he was set to become a restricted free agent. While Marchand’s signing crosses a name off a list of important players set to become RFAs (Tuukka Rask , Tyler Seguin  and Milan Lucic ), the most interesting case remains that of Seguin.
Chiarelli doesn’t like to see players get to free agency, and in Marchand’s case he made sure he locked up a player set to become a restricted free agent before he could step onto the ice in the final year of his deal. Last season, Chiarelli locked up a player set to become a restricted free agent when he gave David Krejci  a three-year, $15.75 million contract during the season. He admitted that to be his style Friday, but he wouldn’t comment on whether he intends to sign Seguin before the season starts.
All Chiarelli said Friday was that he has “had some discussions” with the other Bruins that are near the end of their deals. While we don’t know when or for how much Seguin will sign, here’s what we do know: At 20 years old, he led the Bruins with 29 goals and 67 points and he has yet to reach his prime.
Furthermore, three signings have set the bar for what he may command. Taylor Hall , the player picked one spot ahead of Seguin in the 2010 draft, signed this summer for seven years at $6 million per. Fellow Oiler Jordan Eberle got the same cap hit for six years, while Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner (the seventh overall pick in 2010) signed a six-year deal that will carry a $5.75 million cap hit. All three players, like Seguin, are entering the final seasons of their entry-level deals.
Here are the stats of all four players from last season, with the exception of Skinner, whose rookie (his best year) stats are shown:
Eberle: 78 GP, 34 G, 34 A, 76 P, 17:36 AVG. TOI
Hall: 61 GP, 27 G, 26 A, 53 P, 18:13 AVG. TOI
Skinner [2010-11]: 82 GP, 31 G, 32 , 63 P, 16:44 AVG. TOI
Seguin: 81 GP, 29 G, 38 A, 67 P, 16:56 AVG. TOI
Chiarelli admitted Friday that the sides do take into consideration the comparables, and in Seguin’s case it would appear the comparables are there.
“Again, I’m not going to go into details of negotiations,” he said. “You look at comparable players, you look at where your team salary structure is, and you look at the market. You don’t look strictly at one of those things – you try and look at all of them. So we try and do that in all our negotiations, and we will continue to do that. Sometimes you’re faced with different dynamics, and you have to make decisions at certain junctures of the negotiation, but generally speaking the comparables are important, comparable peer groups, and where he fits into the team salary structure.”
If Seguin were to get the lowest cap hit of the trio — Skinner’s $5.75 million — he would become the Bruins’ highest-paid forward, ahead of the likes of Krejci ($5.25 million) and Patrice Bergeron  ($5 million). Seguin brings something that neither of those two players bring with his elite scoring touch, but he plays less than the other two (Bergeron and Krejci averaged 18:35 and 18:25 per game last season, respectively), and unlike the Oilers stars and Skinner, is playing on a recent Stanley Cup  champion team that is crowded with capable veterans.
For example, the Bruins have five forwards (including Marc Savard ) who are set to command cap hits of $4 million or more next season. The Oilers have two, while the Hurricanes are three. The Bruins also have the highest payroll in the NHL  right now, so money may be tight when it comes time to get all of their players — including a guy like Rask who could be due for a raise from the $3.5 million he’s set to earn — signed before the 2013-14 season.
Because the whole Phil Kessel  thing didn’t work out, it’s yet to be seen just how much the Bruins are willing to shell out for elite scorers. It will be interesting to see how things unfold for Seguin and the Bruins.