BOSTON - On the surface, the announcement Sunday morning that the Bruins and star blue liner Charlie McAvoy had reached an agreement on a three-year contract signified the end of a long, drawn out process that kept both sides quite busy throughout a condensed offseason.
But in so many other ways, the new deal - worth an average annual cap hit of $4.9 million - marks the beginning of what the Bruins and McAvoy hope is a lengthy relationship.
"I'm excited…I've looked at this as, there's well beyond three years as to [how long] Charlie is going to play for the Boston Bruins," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said during a press conference on Sunday afternoon. "We're obviously excited that we got him back with the group here - an important, important part of our hockey club this year, last year, and many years going forward."
McAvoy, who was effectively holding out for the first three days of training camp as the sides searched for common ground, echoed his boss's comments, saying that he views Boston as his long-term home.
"I think what we have here is special, there's no doubt about it. There's no place I'd rather be," said McAvoy, who joined Sweeney at the podium just minutes after concluding his first on-ice practice of camp. "To be a part of such an unbelievable group of men, from staff to everybody involved, it's just a blast to come to the rink every day. It truly is something special. I feel fortunate and blessed to be a part of it."
Since making his debut during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 22-year-old has quickly emerged as one of the National Hockey League's best young defensemen, teaming up with partner and mentor Zdeno Chara to form a shutdown duo on par with any of the top pairings in the league.
During Boston's run to the Stanley Cup Final last spring, McAvoy suited up for 23 games, notching two goals and six assists, while leading the Bruins in ice time (24:30).
And while he enters the season - his third full campaign in the NHL - as, arguably, the Bruins most important all-around defenseman, McAvoy believes there is still plenty of room for growth. The 2016 first-round pick has yet to play a full season, with injuries limiting him to a total of 117 games over his first two campaigns.
"I think overall as a player, I always strive to become better, to grow in all aspects, to reach my full potential," said McAvoy, who was hampered by a concussion and a lower-body injury last season after a heart procedure and sprained MCL limited his rookie year.
"This an opportunity for me to grow the player that I've become. And obviously I've had a little bit of bad luck as far as injuries go, and little stuff like that. Some things are out of your control, you know? But I've always been fortunate to have the support of the organization through all that, which means a whole lot to me."
Video: Charlie McAvoy speaks after re-signing with the B's
The new three-year pact will allow McAvoy the time to continue building his game as he enters the prime of his career. It is a similar approach to the one taken by Columbus defenseman Zach Werenski, who earlier this week inked a three-year deal with the Blue Jackets worth an average annual value of $5 million.
"We looked at a lot of different ways to try to come to the point we came to," said Sweeney, who thanked McAvoy's agents, Mike and Rick Curran, for their communication during the negotiations. "I just think it [was] find a common ground…that puts Charlie in a situation where he can take this platform and really launch himself into the player we all believe he is, and will become, both on and off the ice, incorporating leadership qualities he exhibits as well. So, for us it's just a good compromise, a middle ground. It allows him to take it wherever he's capable of taking it. And we'll be there when he does."
The support of the organization to this point in his career has no doubt appealed to McAvoy, who has begun to engrain himself into the fabric of his adopted hometown. Originally from Long Beach, New York, the 6-foot, 208-pound right shot first made his way to the Hub in the fall of 2015 for his freshman season at Boston University.
McAvoy spent two seasons on Commonwealth Ave., took an abbreviated detour in Providence following his sophomore year, and landed with the Bruins for good during their first-round playoff series with Ottawa in 2017.
"Some of it was difficult for me," McAvoy said of missing the early days of training camp. "I see all my teammates here, and obviously everybody kind of splits for the summer…so I'm here, I'm missing everybody, and they're all back and I just wanted to be a part and be back with everybody. We have something really special with this group - I know it's been said since the moment I got here but I just missed everybody a lot, so I'm excited to be back."
During his nearly five-year stint in Boston, McAvoy has come to understand what the Bruins - and sports in general - mean to this city. And while last season's edition of the Black & Gold fell just three periods short of their place in Boston sports lore, McAvoy is confident that he will one day experience that ultimate glory.
"I have no reason not to be," said McAvoy, reflecting back on last season's postseason run. "I think myself and the younger group of guys, we have that experience, this unbelievable experience that some people play 20 years and they're not fortunate enough to get there, and that's something that we have. I'm very grateful for it. We can't go back and change anything now, but we have the future here in front of us.
"I know everybody is going to be pulling the rope in the same direction. We're a motivated group and I'm looking forward to just getting out there and making sure I do everything in my power to be ready to go for Game 1 this season and to get us off on a positive note."
That process began on Sunday. And it doesn't appear that it will end anytime soon.
"My goal is to go out and become the best hockey player I can be, to grow into one of the best defensemen, hopefully, in the league," said McAvoy. "I feel like the sky is the limit. I'm going to continue to push myself every day, to grow and be better and do everything I can for this team. And this is an opportunity, a bit of a window here, for me to do just that."
Video: Don Sweeney adresses media about Charlie McAvoy