A swap of two AHL players typically is a relatively inconsequential move for an NHL franchise.
And while the acquisition of Paul Carey in 2019 wasn’t a franchise-altering transaction for the Boston Bruins, it was a trade that’s benefitted both team and player.
The Weymouth, Mass., native landed with Boston in January 2019 in a move that sent defenseman Cody Goloubef to the Ottawa Senators. Since leaving Boston College, Carey had bounced all over the place, appearing in NHL games for four different teams before making the Bruins his fifth, with plenty of AHL stops in between.
His opportunities in Boston have been limited, just three games since the trade, but he’s had an impact in Providence and it’s long been noticed. The Bruins rewarded Carey with a two-year extension at the end of last regular season, and the 31-year-old was named the AHL team’s captain before the season. In Providence, he’s helped groom some of Boston’s youngsters with high hopes, like Jack Studnicka.
It’s a responsibility he doesn’t take lightly.
“It means a lot to me, because if you were to tell me that I would be the captain and I’d be molding these young players to be NHLers someday, I’d say that’s a job that is difficult and something that I’ve never done before,” Carey said Wednesday on a conference call. “But it was a fun challenge, I also think that being part of a great team — and it’s not just me, there’s other leaders in the room too that make my job and Leachy’s job easier because we’re a very tight group and we like to help each other along. And when guys show up to the rink every day and they’re eager to learn and they’re energetic, it makes everyone’s lives a lot easier. But if I can turn on the TV five years from now and see even a handful of these young players on TV playing in the NHL, then I feel like I did a pretty good job and I could hang my hat on that a little bit.”
Carey finds himself in a spot many older AHLers do. He has the talent to compete in the NHL, and like anyone else in a lower league, he’s angling for his next shot with the big club. But as a more seasoned player and captain, there is an inherent responsibility to help mold the Studnicka’s and Zach Senyshyn’s of the club for the betterment of the organization.
For so long, Carey hasn’t been able to get stability. It’s really no fault of his own, but rather the reality of a hockey player that teeters on the line between NHLer and AHLer. He’s been traded before, which coincidentally was to the Bruins organization back in 2015 in the deal that sent Max Talbot to Boston. However, Carey never got called up from the AHL. He’s also been a free agent a few times and had to settle for one-year deals.
So to get a two-year extension from the Bruins provided Carey with some much-deserved stability. And considering the uncertainty surrounding this offseason amid the COVID-19 pandemic, he considers himself fortunate to not have to hit the market again.
“Yeah I’m very lucky to have this second year on the deal and not have to go into this offseason wondering what lays ahead in the future,” Carey said, “Even though we’re all kind of thinking what’s going on with the American League, what’s going on with all these leagues at the moment, but it’s definitely a bit of a relief to not have to worry about that. And my heart goes out to the guys that are going into the offseason not knowing when they’re going to play again or when the next season is going to start up.”
Carey had a solid season with Providence before it got canceled, posting 22 goals with 17 assists over 60 games, getting named to the All-Star team in the process.
He admits that being so close to home and staying with the Bruins helped him employ a more team-focused approach this campaign.
“Being able to sign with this organization for two years was my No. 1 priority going into the end of last season and I was glad I could,” Carey said. “Coming from Weymouth and being so close to both Boston and Providence it was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to be close to home, I wanted to be near family and play for the Spoked B and P. And this year I thought it was a good season. In the past I’ve weighed my success on a lot of personal stats and call-ups and whatnots. But this year it was different because when you’re wearing the C or any letter you’re an older guy. You really rely on winning and being a successful team, and I would’ve really liked a chance at the Calder Cup this year, so I think have a first-place team and going on that winning streak, then personally it was a great season and I made a ton of good teammates and friends along the way and I think that it was a great year in that aspect.”