Brandon Carlo, without a contract when the day began, on Wednesday agreed to a six-year extension through 2026-27, giving the 24-year-old defenseman the longest job security on the Bruins’ roster.
Carlo, a five-year veteran, will earn an average of $4.1 million, a boost of nearly 50 percent over his cap hit ($2.8 million) the past two seasons, and placing him second to Charlie McAvoy on the club’s blue-line pay scale.
McAvoy, the Bruins’ budding franchise defenseman, in October will enter the final year of a two-year deal that carries a $4.9 million cap hit. He will earn $7.3 million in 2021-22.
“I’m feeling over the moon today,” Carlo said in a Zoom session.
Carlo, who has become a fixture on the right side of the club’s No. 2 pairing, sustained a pair of concussions this past season, the second of which came in Game 3 of the second-round playoff series against the Islanders. Considerably compromised with the 6-foot-5-inch Carlo out of the mix, the Bruins bowed out of the series in six games.
In Colorado and about to resume skating for the first time since the playoffs ended, Carlo said he is back to feeling 100 percent and is not concerned about his history of concussions.
“In general, before all this contract stuff, I’ve been feeling very good,” he said. “I’ve been feeling great, completely back to normal, 100 percent, I would say for well over a month or month and a half. My recovery was pretty quick within that [concussion] guideline . . . so everything’s good there.”
The new deal is structured, in part, to lessen Carlo’s exposure to anticipated escrow hits likely to be imposed while the NHL recovers from the COVID-19-related financial consequences specific to the salary cap and game revenues.
Per capfriendly.com, he will average $3 million over the first two seasons of the deal, then peak at $5.7 million and $5.45 million in Years 3 and 4, before tapering off to an approximate average of $3.75 million over each of the final two seasons (expiring in the spring of 2027 at age 30).
Through five seasons, totaling 324 games, Carlo has cobbled together a meager offensive line (15-40—55), with two coaches (Claude Julien and Bruce Cassidy) casting him in a classic defender’s role. Carlo has become a solid five-on-five defender, a stalwart on the penalty-killing unit, and rarely used on the power play, despite excellent speed and agility for a tall player. Likely to be kept in that role, he would not be expected to deliver more than, say, 20-25 points in his top season.
Positioned with such a long-term deal, Carlo will be expected to contribute a large voice and presence in the dressing room, and perhaps take a bigger leadership role on the ice.
“When they came to me with a six-year deal, it was a huge compliment,” he said, “recognizing within the room there’s areas that I’ve wanted to step up and be a leader — there’s a lot more room for that going forward. And I think this contract kind of reflects on that. I’m excited for that opportunity. It’s always something that I feel I’ve had within me, that leadership component. The responsibility comes with this deal.”
Though unlikely, the deal allows the Bruins to deal Carlo over the first two years. A modified no-trade clause governs the final four years of the pact, allowing Carlo to submit a list of teams that he would not accept in trade (that number ranging from three to 10 over those years).
But clearly general manager Don Sweeney has framed Carlo as one of the three defensemen, including Matt Grzelcyk and McAvoy, whom he intends to keep in residence long term. All three will be expected to work in the top two pairings, though Grzelcyk, because of his lack of size, might slip to the No. 3 pairing depending on how Sweeney fills out the rest of the six-pack.
Carlo will be one of the players Sweeney includes on the protected list he will submit to the league Saturday ahead of next week’s Seattle expansion draft. The Kraken likely will cull a defenseman off the Bruins’ roster, be it Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, or perhaps Jakub Zboril.
Meanwhile, once the Seattle loss is known, Sweeney likely will tidy up deals with some of his other free agents, possibly including unrestricted Mike Reilly on the backline. However, Sweeney’s offerings back there could be influenced by Minnesota’s decision Tuesday to buy out veteran Ryan Suter.
Suter, a 36-year-old lefthanded defenseman, would seem a potential candidate for Sweeney to include in the mix. Now to collect $6.7 million over the next eight years as a product of the buyout, Suter also could come at an economical price on, say, a two- or three-year deal. Much of that, of course, will depend on where the market goes for someone of Suter’s profile and experience. His footspeed at this age is a concern, but he has the experience and hockey IQ to mitigate some of that.
Sweeney’s other free agent concerns include a handful of forwards, with restricted Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, as well as UFAs Taylor Hall, David Krejci, and perhaps Sean Kuraly.
But Carlo’s deal is done, his economical $4.1 million cap hit inked in for six more seasons — beating by two seasons the Charlie Coyle deal ($5.25 million cap) that expires in the spring of 2026.
“I don’t know if I’ll go with a big purchase right off the bat,” said Carlo, asked if he’ll allow himself a luxury with his newfound wealth, “but probably my first purchase payment will be a haircut. It’s getting out of hand here.”