Caufield ‘thrilled and proud’ to sign long-term extension with Canadiens

MONTREAL — Cole Caufield picked up the phone and called his mother after agreeing to a lucrative extension with the Montreal Canadiens. She couldn’t answer because she was busy at work, teaching.

MONTREAL — Cole Caufield picked up the phone and called his mother after agreeing to a lucrative extension with the Montreal Canadiens.

She couldn’t answer because she was busy at work, teaching. But once she called him back, the two shared a moment about how much money not only changes Caufield’s life, but her family’s as well.

“She was emotional, she started crying on the phone. It is really very special for me and my family,” she said during a video call with reporters. “They couldn’t be more proud and I couldn’t be more grateful for what they’ve done.

“I’m just… I’m speechless sometimes just thinking about it.”

The Canadiens signed Caufield to a $62.8 million, eight-year contract extension on Monday, completing a key piece of the offseason deal.

Caufield, who said he couldn’t even have dreamed of a number like that as a kid, wanted to sign long-term rather than opt for a bridging deal both to get his family “settled down for a while” and because of how much he loves it. play in Montreal.

“The way this organization is going, the plan that is intact, all of that, makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I love it there, (it’s my) second home, first home, whatever you want to call it for me. I think it also puts my family in a good place, all of those things that went into this number and final years.

“I am very excited and very lucky to be a part of the Montreal Canadiens for a long time.”

The deal will pay the 22-year-old winger an average annual value of $7.85 million through the 2030-31 season. It’s the second-richest contract for a forward in Canadiens history, behind captain Nick Suzuki’s eight-year deal worth $200,000.

Caufield said that he and the team understood that Suzuki would remain the team’s highest-paid striker.

“I mean, that’s our guy, that’s our leader,” Caufield said. “I think everyone knows that, and (I) still have a lot of money, so I’m not complaining about anything.

“I’m excited and proud to be a part of this, and doing it with him along the way will be extra special.”

With Suzuki signed through 2029-30, Montreal has two franchise mainstays locked up for the foreseeable future.

Caufield had no spectacular plans for how he will celebrate his new contract.

“I worked out and skated this morning, so maybe I’ll take a nap later,” he said.

Caufield scored 26 goals and added 10 assists in 46 games in 2022-23, tying Suzuki for the team lead in goals despite undergoing season-ending right shoulder surgery in February.

Now in Michigan in the off-season, Caufield said he’s been skating two to three times a week and was cleared for full activity about 10 days ago.

“I’m really looking forward to having this full summer to make sure I’m back to 100 percent,” he said. “The way things are going right now, I’m not too worried at all.”

The 5-foot-7, 174-pound Caufield passed the Canadiens 15th overall in the 2019 NHL draft despite breaking goalscoring records with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

Caufield, from Mosinee, Wisc., then joined the University of Wisconsin Badgers for two seasons and won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in US men’s college hockey after leading the NCAA in points and goals during his sophomore year.

Since making his NHL debut in 2020-21, the forward has recorded 84 points (53 goals, 31 assists) in 123 regular-season games and 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 20 playoff games. Only first overall pick Jack Hughes has more goals among players in the 2019 draft.

Caufield’s production took off when the Canadiens replaced head coach Dominique Ducharme with Martin St. Louis in February of last year. In 83 games played since St. Louis took over behind the bench, Caufield has 48 goals and 71 points.

The success he’s had under St. Louis definitely played a role in Caufield’s desire to sign long-term, he said.

“I think we got something special in the room just by having him there,” Caufield said. “Marty is going to teach me a lot and he’s already done that to this day, so obviously a big part of that was him.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 5, 2023.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press