Connor Clifton was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft. His route to the NHL hasn’t been that smooth. In 2017, the Bruins gave him an opportunity and signed him to an AHL contract as he came out of Quinnipiac University.
After a successful season with the Providence Bruins, the Boston Bruins signed him to a two-year, entry-level contract. Not even Clifton would expect to receive a three-year contract extension through 2023 just a year after he signed the entry-level deal.
Last season, Clifton appeared in 19 games in the regular season, followed by another 18 playoff appearances. This season, he has dressed up for 23 games already. When a player on an entry-level contract reaches the 60 games played plateau, he becomes waivers eligible.
There were rumblings and proposals that the Bruins might want to bypass it by assigning Clifton to the AHL. However, the Bruins have made their mind up on Clifton and his status moving forward. As of now, Clifton doesn’t belong to the AHL, and Boston is fully conscious of that.
Perhaps a bit risky move, but the Bruins decided to keep Clifton at the NHL level for good with the multi-year extension. The 24-year-old right-shot defenseman might be the least utilized defenseman among the big six the Bruins posses, but he has been tremendously valuable for them.
What if Kevan Miller returns and the Bruins need to make either a roster space or a lineup spot? It’s tough to scratch Clifton long-term when Miller returns, but it’d be tough to see Miller in the press box, as well. Don’t forget about the presence of Steven Kampfer, who has taken part in only five NHL games this season.
Clifton is here to stay. The Bruins distinctly manifested it. No matter what unfolds next, Clifton has fought his way out to be a regular on this team’s top-six defensive core. As they would lose the right-shot rearguard on the waivers, the Bruins plan to keep him on their roster. Remember, only two-and-a-half years ago, Clifton was given a last-gasp chance to make it on an AHL deal.
Now, he has made it.