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Happy at home

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Mark Barberio will enjoy the comforts of home for at least the next two seasons.

On Monday, the 26-year-old rearguard agreed to terms on a two-year, one-way contract with the Canadiens, avoiding restricted free agency in the process.

Barberio, who joined the Canadiens last summer on a free-agent deal following an extended stay in Tampa, made the most of his opportunity with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps early on this past season before being recalled by the big club in late December and making his debut at Amalie Arena against his former squad.

The Montreal native would remain with Michel Therrien’s troops for the remainder of the year, putting up two goals and 10 points in 30 games before his season came to a premature end in mid-March due to a concussion.

“With all the injuries last season [before sustaining my concussion], I got a chance. I got an opportunity to play. Chances don’t always come around too often, so it was important to take advantage of it. It sure feels good to sign a two-year contract. I’m looking forward to getting back at it. I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me this summer, but I just want to build off the good base from last season,” said Barberio, who averaged 14 minutes of ice time per game on the Canadiens’ blue line in 2015-16.

It marks the first time since Barberio’s entry-level contract with Tampa in 2010 that he’s ever received a multi-year deal, something that certainly isn’t lost on the Calder Cup champion. That added sense of security is a bonus the Canadiens’ No. 45 fully appreciates heading into his fifth NHL season.

“It’s nice because it shows that the Canadiens coaches and management really believe in me. All year, I just wanted to play solid hockey. I wanted to be an all-around guy who moves the puck up, gets the attack going from the back end and plays a fast game. I felt last season I took some big steps towards becoming that type of player,” confided Barberio, who has eight goals and 27 points in 133 career NHL games, in addition to racking up 50 penalty minutes along the way. “Now, it’s my turn to repay the confidence they’ve shown in me with solid play.”

Barberio has been hard at work trying to do just that for a while now up in Quebec City where he’s been working out with the likes David Desharnais, Patrice Bergeron and Antoine Vermette. Fellow defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will also be joining Barberio’s training group after some well-deserved rest coming off San Jose’s Stanley Cup run.

“It’s my third summer now training in Quebec City. When I did it two summers ago, I finished my workouts feeling like I was in the best shape of my career. The group we have is very good, very competitive. They’re good people and good players. At the end of each summer, I always feel like I’ve improved in terms of my speed and ability,” said Barberio, who has been free of concussion-like symptoms for quite a while and going through his normal workout routine for the past four-and-a-half weeks without incident. “I’ll be in the gym and working out on the football field until mid-July. Then, we’ll all hit the ice together. Patrice is the leader of the group. He’s a guy who sets the tone and trains like a champion. As a young player, it’s good to be around guys like that.”

Now, Barberio is hoping to channel all of those positive training vibes into another productive campaign with the Canadiens in which his effort can contribute to turning the team’s fortunes around. It all begins with coming to training camp in September in peak physical shape ready for work and the inevitable rigors that come with the NHL grind.

“It’s something that I’m going to take a lot of pride in. Above everything else, at heart, I’m a Canadiens fan. I want nothing but success for this city and this team. That’s going to be my mindset for the summer, to train hard and come to camp in top shape so I can do my part to steer this team in the right direction,” explained Barberio, who is eagerly anticipating the start of a new year. “It’s going to take everybody to do that. Everybody needs to come in ready to go, ready to work and hungry for wins. It’s a long summer for us, but we’ve got to make sure that we take advantage of it.”

And, it’s safe to say Barberio is primed for his chance to chip in.

“I want to come in and do me. I want to play my game. I’m not going to come in and try to play outside of my abilities. I’m going to play within myself, give my best for the team, and at the end of the day we’ll see where the chips fall,” concluded Barberio. “I know that if you put in the work, you usually get what you deserve. Hopefully, for myself and the whole team, we earn much better than what happened last season.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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