UMass’s Cale Makar signs with NHL’s Avalanche, will immediately join team
BUFFALO — Throughout the week of the Frozen Four, UMass coach Greg Carvel and star defenseman did their best to not look past Saturday night’s NCAA championship game.
But with the season officially over, the move everybody knew was coming was confirmed: Makar is forgoing is final two years of eligibility to join the Colorado Avalanche. The organization announced the signing on Sunday.
“From the beginning, my goal was to go play college for two years,” Makar said last week. “I had some stuff I wanted to work on coming back. I really felt our team could make a run at it this year. We would have the opportunity to play in the Frozen Four.”
Carvel praised Makar after the championship game.
“When you get a kid like Cale, you feel a lot of responsibility as a coach to develop him and make sure — he could have gone anywhere, could have done anything. But he chose to stay loyal to his commitment to UMass. I took it and our staff took it as a huge responsibility.
“The thing that I love about Cale is that he never makes you feel like he’s doing us a favor by playing for UMass. He’s very grateful for what we did for him. It’s genuine.
“He didn’t look at UMass as a steppingstone that he was going to fly by. He looked at UMass as a very important part of his life, and I give him so much credit because he did everything absolutely right, every last part of it. That’s why I’m so happy that he won the Hobey Baker award because he’s absolutely what you want in a Hobey Baker winner.
“He’s an elite hockey player. But when we think about Cale, personally when I think about Cale, first thing that comes to my mind is how good of a kid he is. He’s unbelievable. I feel very fortunate that I got to coach him. I don’t expect him back. Just very grateful, very grateful.”
Earlier in the week, Carvel was asked about his favorite memory from the season the day before the Frozen Four.
“I think my favorite memory will be coaching Cale Makar. It’s been a special opportunity. He’s a really special kid,” said Carvel.
“I’m excited that in the two years, it’s gone exactly as I hoped it would for him, but it’s gone exactly as I hoped it would for us, me and Cale. I really like the relationship we have, the trust that we built, the way that I’ve been able to coach him, him coach me at the same time.”
Makar apparently has also made an impact on Carvel’s family.
“I really like the fact that my 6-year-old son knows him. He knows Cale Makar, and he talks about Cale. He says things like, ‘Dad, look at my cheeks, they’re red like Cale Makar’s.’
“Cale doesn’t want to talk about the future. He’s very much in the now. But I asked him to sign a picture for my son. He did that a couple days ago. I think being able to always know that we had an impact on a guy that’s going to be really I think a superstar at the next level has been memorable.”
Makar signed an three-year entry-level contract with the Avalanche and will join the team immediately. Colorado is tied, 1-1, in its Western Conference first-round playoff series with the Calgary Flames. Game 3 of the series is Monday night in Colorado.
For Makar to make his NHL debut in the playoffs would be unconventional, but not unprecedented.
Two years ago, Charlie McAvoy made his NHL debut in the Bruins’ playoff series against Ottawa on April 12. McAvoy was able to play four games with Providence in the AHL after finishing his sophomore season at Boston University before getting the call for the postseason.
Makar, 20, was born in Calgary. He was selected by the Avalanche with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, the highest selection of a UMass player.
Globe Correspondent Brandon Chase contributed to this article.