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Carlo Signing Has Bruins Looking Forward

With RFA blue liners signed, Boston can focus on preparing for 2019-20 season

by Eric Russo @erusso22 / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - The band is officially back together.

When the Bruins report to Warrior Ice Arena on Wednesday morning, they will be in one piece for the first time this training camp.

Just two days after welcoming Charlie McAvoy back with a new three-year contract, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced that he had inked his other restricted free agent blue liner, Brandon Carlo, to a two-year deal worth an annual cap hit of $2.85 million.

"Overall it was a great process, I learned a lot throughout the entire process," Carlo said during a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. "A lot of respect to Sweens and [assistant general manager] Evan Gold and how they handled everything with me. They were reassuring at times and it helped a lot. But at the same time, it was stressful for me throughout these past couple days, especially after Charlie signed, to not be a part of camp.

"I was looking just to continue forward and stay here and remain here with this group of guys. I think everybody, as a young guy, you like the security aspect [of a long-term deal], but as I went through the process and things were explained to me, I'm very happy with the result of the two years."

With the right side of Boston's back end now locked up, it's time for the focus to shift fully to the ice and the start of the 2019-20 season.

"It's a really, really important day for us. [Brandon is a] big, big part of our club," said Sweeney. "As I referenced with Charlie the other day, really important [pieces] of what we accomplished last year, what we hope to accomplish this year, and many, many years going forward.

"Brandon is going to be a part of the Boston Bruins and I indicated that while we were going through negotiations, to him and to everybody else. I'm very excited to have him back in the fold."

Video: Sweeney addresses media after inking Carlo

Carlo has certainly begun to take a prominent place within Boston's core, rising from an unheralded second-round pick in 2015 to a dependable shutdown force. And now that his second contract is on the books, the 22-year-old - who is entering his fourth season in the NHL - is aiming to continue that ascension.

"Whirlwind would be a good word," Carlo said of his career arc thus far. "My first year I didn't really know what to expect in the aspect of making the team. I was very blessed to be able to jump up and have that experience and learn from [Zdeno Chara] in that regard and start my NHL career faster than I anticipated.

"The organization has treated me so well and it's been so fun…I've had my ups and downs, but one thing that's stayed consistent is me having fun around this group of teammates and everybody involved in this organization."

The Colorado native took massive strides during the Bruins' run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, his introduction to playoff hockey after having his first two campaigns cut short late in the season. Carlo and partner Torey Krug developed a strong rapport over the course of the season, allowing coach Bruce Cassidy to deploy them in nearly every situation.

Carlo suited up for all 24 postseason contests, ranking third on the Bruins in time on ice (21:31), while adding two goals - both in the Cup Final - and two assists.

"Overall, my confidence level has grown [a lot], especially throughout the playoffs last year, just getting that experience," said Carlo, who finished second behind Chara in penalty kill time (2:52) per game during the postseason. "With every little bit of experience, I continue to grow in that regard mentally. I didn't expect the NHL to be this mentally tough when I first came in. Had great guidance through that time period with the older guys on our team, but certainly needed to get a grasp on it for myself."

Video: Carlo Talks New Deal With Bruins Reporter, Eric Russo

As his confidence grows, both on and off the ice, Carlo - and his bosses - see plenty of room for development, particularly offensively as he continues to play alongside one of the league's best offensive defensemen in Krug. After registering 16 points (6 goals, 10 assists) during his rookie campaign, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound blue liner has combined for just 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) over the past two seasons.

"I've talked to Butchy, Sweens, different people [about] the offensive side of my game," said Carlo. "I feel like I can get up in the rush a little bit more and contribute and I think with confidence I'll recognize that more on the ice. Defensively, I feel good as a player. I want to continue to remain on a progression of getting more physical."

Sweeney, meanwhile, believes that Carlo has the character traits and maturity level to take on more of a leadership role, even at age 22.

"I said this to Brandon this morning - from a leadership standpoint, he's able to now feel comfortable in his own skin to take the next young player and realize this is how we do things," said Sweeney. "And I think he wants that. So, for me, I don't think you can put a ceiling on what he's capable of doing.

"But he also has to live to his own ideals of what he does really well. And obviously, shutting down and taking responsibility to end games, to close out games, to protect teammates, to block shots, to do the things that other players might not be willing to do, he does really well."

Should all of those pieces to Carlo's game come together over the next two seasons, he will, no doubt, be in prime position to cash in on his next contract. As such, the two-year contract he signed on Tuesday becomes part motivation and part measuring stick.

"I remember talking to Sean Kuraly a year ago, and he said something that stuck with me. It was to always bet on yourself," said Carlo. "I believe in that 100 percent…I think for right now I'm happy with the progressions that I've made, but I'll never be content [with] where I'm at right now. [I] always want to continue to strive forward.

"We're lucky enough to have those superstar-caliber players on our team who set the example every day. For me, I wouldn't say gambling on yourself, just primarily believing in yourself and believing in your abilities and being confident in the way you continue to develop."

 

For now, though, Carlo is zeroing in on getting back up to speed. Having missed the first four days of on-ice training, he made sure to get right back on the ice Tuesday afternoon despite it being an off day for the Bruins. Carlo, who skated with skills coach Kim Brandvold in an effort to keep up his conditioning, expects it will only take two or three days to catch up.

"It's hard to not be there grinding with your teammates," said Carlo, who trained - on and off the ice - in his native Colorado this summer. "As much as it sucks when you're out on the ice being bag-skated, when you're missing it, it almost feels worse. I was getting really antsy, couldn't even get comfortable on the couch these past couple days, but really excited to be here."

Carlo will be here for at least two more years. And from the sounds of it, that could be just the beginning.

"I've never had so much fun," Carlo said of playing in Boston. "Going back to the playoffs, going through each round in front of our home fans is just so special. For me to be a part of it, especially for the first time, you walk around the city and there's just such a good feel with all the history.

"And all the people here treat us so well as part of this community. It's really become home."

Video: Carlo speaks after inking 2-year deal with B's

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