Clifton Having Too Much Fun To Worry About Contract
Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton is set to become an unrestricted free agent in July but right now, that’s the furthest thing from the 27-year-old rear guard’s mind.
“I haven’t heard anything, and honestly, I’m not really too worried about it,” Clifton told Boston Hockey Now in a one-on-one interview this past Tuesday and just before taking off for the Bruins recent two-game road trip to New York.
In an email reply to BHN, Clifton’s agent Shawn Hunwick declined to comment on contract negotiations ‘out of respect for the process’
Clifton sealed the deal with his fourth goal of the season 28 ticks into the third period of the Bruins’ 3-1 win over the New York Rangers Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. After beating the New York Islanders 4-1 on Long Island the night before, it was another dominant defensive performance by Clifton and the Bruins – along with equally dominant goaltending by Jeremy Swayman (31 saves) – that completed a two-game sweep of the back-to-back set in New York. For now – and Clifton stressed his sincerity so as not to sound like a cliche – Clifton is just living in the moment.
“I think when you have a team like this, you don’t want to take anything for granted,” said Clifton. “Take it one day at a time, just keep getting better, and keep building so that we can get to where we want to go this year.”
Connor Clifton clearly looks more comfortable on and off the ice and it showed when he was tasked to help alleviate the absence of his injured blue line teammates Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk for the better part of the month of October. Clifton delivered and proved to new head coach Jim Montgomery that he could be depended on. When asked what he felt has improved most about his game and made him a better player this year, Clifton’s reply showed just how much Montgomery’s hiring has helped him on and off the ice.
“Am I a better player? Honestly, I wouldn’t say so. I just feel like I have confidence,” Clifton replied. “I mean last year, I think I ended up getting scratched the third game of the year so. …yeah OK. So I’m, obviously consistently playing more. I’m not watching. …watching sucks. …sometimes people say it makes you better, I don’t know if it does. I’d much rather be down there with the guys, battling and playing games.
So that’s how it’s been and obviously, we had a couple guys down (with injury), to start the year in ‘Chuck’ [Charlie McAvoy], and ‘Gryzz’ [Matt Grzelcyk], and there was an opportunity there to step up. I think collectively, the six guys playing ran with that. I got more minutes towards the front of the year and did my best. Now with those guys back, we’re a better team, and I’m playing a third pair role with ‘Forby’ [Derek Forbort], and I think we’ve been solid.”
While the goal he scored on Thursday was his first in 14 games, Clifton has still had more of an offensive flair to his game, feeling more confident to pinch and jump into the offensive attack.
“We’re playing really aggressive offensively and I think we all love it back there,” Clifton said. “We like scoring goals too, and we like being a part of it. So, it’s just been great. We have the freedom to go do that and the forwards are covering for us when we do. So, it’s like the perfect storm. We’re so well-balanced and it’s just been so much fun.”
Sometimes though, that pinching can turn into odd-man rushes the other way. Thankfully for Clifton and the Bruins D-corps, they have, currently, the odds-on favorite to win the 2023 Vezina Trophy, Linus Ullmark, and arguably the best 1B goalie in the NHL, in Jeremy Swayman behind them.
“It’s got it’s risks for sure but when you got guys like Linus and ‘Sway’ behind us, you’re not as afraid to make a mistake or allow the odd 2-on-1’s,” Clifton said with a smiling Ullmark creeping behind him.
“I just wanted him to say that,” Ullmark quipped as he walked away leaving Clifton and this puck scribe laughing.
That interchange was just another example of how much fun Clifton, Ullmark and their teammates are having, and why Clifton isn’t worried about not having a contract extension with the Boston Bruins yet.