The Bruins signed defenseman Connor Clifton to a three-year contract extension worth $3 million. He has one more year on his current contract worth $725,000, then will have an annual $1 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season.

“Connor did a really good job and deserved to play,” Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney said. “In all situations, provided a lot of depth for our club. Obviously we missed Kevan Miller. I think moving forward, we just recognized there’s a lot of value for what Connor brings to the table.”

Clifton made his NHL debut this past season when he slid into an undermanned lineup in November, and after a while became a mainstay in the Bruins defensive rotation.

With 19 games in the regular season and 18 playoff appearances, Clifton totaled two goals and four assists. He made an impact on the ice with his physical play and ability to jump up in the play.

“You can slot him in,” Sweeney said. “He was out of the lineup and you can put him back in and he’ll play the exact same way, there’s a lot of value there. I think (Steven) Kampfer was the same way. We had some injuries during the season, the timeline is not definitive so we had to be covered in that regard.”

The Bruins have a crowded blue line as it is and will have to shift their focus to trying to sign restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo under the salary cap. They have Urho Vaakanainen as a virtual lock to be a part of the team next year and beyond, and plenty of depth in Providence and beyond.

Clifton was a fifth-round pick by the Coyotes in 2013 before he spent four seasons with Quinnipiac, where he helped the Bobcats get to a national championship game. The Long Branch, N.J., native then signed with the Bruins and spent a year in Providence before last season.

Miller is recovering from refracturing his kneecap and his timeline has him set to return around the start of the season, while John Moore might miss some time early with a shoulder injury he had surgery on, so they’ll need all the defensive depth they can get early in the season.

That means Clifton’s role might only grow from here, and if the playoffs showed anything, he has the ability to play that role.

NOEL ACCIARI had expressed hope he’d be back in Boston at the end of the 2019 playoff run, but in the end, doubling his salary proved too good to turn down. Multiple reports had him accepting a three-year, $5 million deal from the Florida Panthers.

Acciari had six goals and eight assists in 72 games this season playing on the fourth line.

He could be replaced on the fourth line by Brett Ritchie, a 6-foot-4, bottom-six winger, who signed with the Bruins on Monday, his 26th birthday. He has 33 goals and 21 assists in 241 career games, all for the Dallas Stars. He’s shown a willingness to mix-it up against an opponent’s top heavyweights.

Ritchie’s role could depend heavily on whether the Bruins move David Backes.

The Bruins’ ability to sign free agents including their own unrestricted free agents is hampered by the uncertainty of not having restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen signed.

Not knowing what it will eventually cost to keep them limits Boston’s ability to make moves because they don’t where they’ll be in relation to the salary cap.

The Bruins will likely lose third-line wing Marcus Johansson as well. The Swedish forward, who was acquired at the deadline had a strong postseason and has likely priced himself out of the Bruins range as well.

ONE OF THE Bruins biggest items to do on their free agency list was signing a third goalie.

They added former Golden Knights goaltender Max Lagace early Monday as one of their first free agent signings. The 26-year-old has been a part of the Vegas organization the past two seasons, spending time mostly in the AHL.

THE BRUINS reportedly signed 6-foot-4 right winger Brett Ritchie to a one-year deal worth $1 million.

Ritchie, 26, has spent his entire career with the Dallas Stars where he scored six points in 53 games. His four goals a season ago was the lowest of his career, after he posted a 16-goal season two years ago.

 


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