BostonBruins.com - On Friday, the Bruins announced that a host of restricted free agents, including Jordan Caron, had been re-signed.
Caron's deal is a one-year, one-way contract worth an annual cap hit of of $600,000.
Entering his fifth year pro after being drafted 25th overall in 2009, the 23-year-old winger has appeared in 123 NHL games with Boston, along with nine Stanley Cup Playoff games, and 111 games with Providence.
The 2013-14 season marked the first time he spent the entire season with the big club, filling the role of the thirteenth forward. He suited up in 35 games during the season, recording a goal and two assists, and stepped in during the postseason, scoring his first career NHL playoff goal in the first round against Detroit.
Caron looks back at 2013-14 as an up-and-down season, adjusting to his role being in and out of the lineup.
After four years with the Black and Gold, General Manager Peter Chiarelli has been up front with Caron. The GM told reporters at the NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia that he's talked to a few teams about Caron and will be continuing to explore trade options.
The forward obviously wants to stay with the organization, with his teammates and friends, the staff, and with a winning franchise, but like anyone else, he understands the business of it.
"I talked to Peter after the season, and you know, I knew. He told me right away. He knows what I'm thinking and I think I know what he's thinking a little bit," Caron said over the phone from Quebec, where he trains with Patrice Bergeron in the offseason.
"But, right now, that's totally out of my control and that's going to be the staff's decision moving forward, so whatever happens with that, with trades and stuff, obviously, you know, I want to play more and I want to have a bigger role, so if they decide to keep me in Boston, great."
"But if they decide to move me somewhere else, well I'm going to have to deal with it, and it's going to be their decision. So whatever they think is best for the team and for myself, I'm going to ride along with that."
At only 23, Caron could still be considered fairly young in his career. But being a first-round pick, and becoming a pro out of the QMJHL in 2010, he's got a decent dose of NHL experience for a player his age.
He's at the point where he needs to make the jump to having a full-time NHL role, whether it's with Boston, or on another team.
"Well, I know I’m still young, but at the same time, I think the next couple of years are going to be huge for me, so I want to make that step," Caron said.
"And, I keep saying the same thing, [I want to] have a bigger role and really be a good player in the League, and I think I can do it. I want to keep improving, so it’s my job to keep getting better over the summer, and getting into camp and being ready to win that kind of role."
"You know, obviously there’s pressure, outside pressure, but I always put a lot of pressure on myself, too. So that’s part of the game and that’s something you have to deal with."
There's pressure on all first-round picks. They don't all establish themselves in full-time roles, they don't all make it in the NHL, and many learn to carve out different roles for themselves than were originally projected, or expected.
As the thirteenth forward last season, who mostly filled in on the third and fourth lines, Caron has experienced that firsthand.
"I think it's going to be good for me, just being strong mentally and I think it wasn't the easiest season, just being scratched a lot," said Caron. "But I think it's going to help me be strong mentally and stay positive, and be a good team guy in the long run, that's for sure. That's going to help me for that."
With roster spots in Boston open up front heading into September's training camp, Caron could find himself in the same position as last season.
Out of camp, he helped form the team's most reliable line with Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith, as Carl Soderberg recovered from an ankle injury, and Loui Eriksson and Jarome Iginla adjusted to their new linemates. The consistency didn't stick, however, and when the roster was tinkered with after Soderberg's return, Caron found himself on the sidelines for much of the year.
Still, this is the organization that drafted him, and gave him his first shot.
"They've been awesome to me so far. It's been some up and downs, but they've treated me well on and off the ice," he said. "We have a good group of guys that's pretty unique so it's fun to be a part of that, and for myself, it's just nice to have the contract early in the summer and not have to worry too much about it anymore, so I'm pretty happy that the deal is done."
With the Bruins in a restricted cap situation (after the July 18 signings, they'll have $3.8 million in cap space for 2014-15 once they place Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve), and an emphasis being placed on young players getting opportunities with the big club (8-10 players could ultimately be competing for spots), Caron will get another shot at the NHL. That shot could come in Black and Gold, or it could come elsewhere, as Chiarelli continues to explore all options.
For now, Caron is just focused on what he can control - being ready for training camp.
"We've lost a few guys already and, you know, I'm going to go into training camp and try and win a spot," he said. "I want to have a bigger role, so I think it's going to be my job to earn it and play as best as I can to win a spot on that team."
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