|Senators defenceman Matt Carkner has inked a two-year contract extension with the team. He also now has the security of a one-way deal, which general manager Bryan Murray said the Winchester native earned with his strong play so far this season (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images).
won't soon forget what it's taken him to get to this moment.
Let's just say eight years of battling your way through hockey's minor leagues tends to make a rather permanent impression on a guy who admittedly wondered whether he'd ever get his big break but had way too much heart to give up on his dream.
Rest assured that Carkner, even with a new two-year, one-way contract with the Ottawa Senators now in hand, won't stop being the hard-working guy from the Seaway Valley who has already made such a difference for his team.
"I’ve still got to fight for my team and my spot on the team," said Carkner, 26, after finally landing the security of a one-way contract for the first time in his pro hockey career. "You’ve got to work hard to be in the NHL and I know that. I’ve worked real hard over the years and to say that I’m going to relax at all… no, I’m not. I’m going to keep working hard and go at it.
"(A one-way contract) is something I never really thought I’d get. I was playing well in the minors but just never really got the opportunity to play any games in the NHL. A one-way has always been on my mind. It would be unbelievable to get one. Now that I have one, it’s a great feeling, but I’ve just got to continue to do the things that I do to be successful."
The Senators wouldn't expect anything less from Carkner, a second-round pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft (58th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens who saw only two games of NHL action in eight previous pro seasons before finally hitting it big with the Senators this year. Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray believes Carkner is the kind of character player that makes everyone around him better.
"We really wanted this guy to be on our hockey team," said Murray. "To play the (first) seven games the way he has… he provides a confidence, toughness and a respect level. Every player in our group sees how hard he works getting ready for practice and after practice. When you have people like this available to you, you should definitely keep them around. To be able to secure him and send a message to the organization that if you’re a good person, you work hard and you’re really liked locally... that’s a good thing.
"Matt certainly deserves it. He's really stepped up here and he's shown he can play in the league... He's a community guy, he's a team guy. He does anything and everything to be important within the group.""
Nobody appreciates that more than his teammates, who saw Carkner come to training camp in September and literally will his way onto the team. And any player who's toiled for any amount of time in the American Hockey League knows how long and hard the road has been for the 6-5, 231-pound Carkner.
"He's a guy who came up here from the minors and it's almost a Cinderella story," said rugged forward Chris Neil
, who spent two seasons in the minors before landing full-time employment with the Senators in 2001-02. "He definitely comes into camp every year in great shape and he's proven himself. He's never really gotten the opportunity and to see a guy like that (finally) get this opportunity... I'm really happy for him."
"I’ve still got to fight for my team and my spot on the team. You’ve got to work hard to be in the NHL and I know that. I’ve worked real hard over the years and to say that I’m going to relax at all ... no, I’m not. I’m going to keep working hard and go at it. (A one-way contract) is something I never really thought I’d get. Now that I have one, it’s a great feeling, but I’ve just got to continue to do the things that I do to be successful." - Matt Carkner
Carkner built a reputation with his fists while with the Binghamton Senators but has evolved into much more than that under coach Cory Clouston, perhaps his biggest fan in the organization.
"(Clouston) has had confidence to play me in key situations and I've done well with it," said Carkner. "So I think they saw that and they see that I'm not the type of guy to give up. I've been sticking with it for eight years in the minors, so I think they have confidence in me, that I'm going to continue to work hard to succeed at this level."
Added Neil: "He's as tough as they come. He's a strong man out there. He's got the size and he's got the strength. But the biggest thing is, he's playing well. It's not about the fighting. He's come up here, he's shown he can play and he's kept it simple out there.
"He's been one of our best (defencemen) game in and game out. He knows his role up here. That's what's gotten him here and it's what's going to keep him here."
The signing is surely big news in his hometown of Winchester and in nearby Westport, where Carkner has resided for the last six years. Now he and his wife, Kary, and their two young children Chase and Corbin can look forward to making a new home in Ottawa (they've spent the last three weeks living in a hotel here).
"I'm thrilled," said Carkner, who scored his first NHL goal in the Senators' 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders in their Oct. 8 home-opener. "I couldn't be in a better place right now. Just being with this team the whole year so far has been a dream come true and getting this contract extension... I couldn't be happier, for sure."Around the boards
Centre Peter Regin
has been upgraded to "probable" for Thursday's game against the Nashville Predators at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Defenceman Filip Kuba
(lower body) skated for 45 minutes prior to practice this morning but Clouston said he's "doubtful" for Thursday as is forward Jesse Winchester
(right knee), who rejoined the team for practice ... Binghamton Senators forward Ilya Zubov
has been loaned to Salavat Yulaev Ufa of the Kontinental Hockey League ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for Thursday's game with the Predators. It's another Subway Savings Game
, with all regular-priced tickets available at 20 per cent off.