Marchand/By S. Bradley

The Bruins have taken the first step toward retaining winger Brad Marchand.

General manager Peter Chiarelli said tonight that he has qualified the potential restricted free agent, which means the Bruins hold the right of first refusal should Marchand receive an offer sheet from another club.

Although offer sheets are rare, Marchand might be a popular player when the free-agent market opens July 1 because everyone wants to make life difficult on the Stanley Cup champions salary cap-wise, and because he scored 21 goals as a rookie (plus 11 more in the postseason).