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Three-year plan for Cunningham

Cunningham clears another hurdle on his way to the Garden.
Boston Bruins’ newly signed player

After signing a contract with the Boston Bruins last week, a Warfield man made a brief visit to his hometown for a little “R and R” and a chance to connect with his family.

Craig Cunningham, the Bruins’ 2010 fourth round draft pick (97th overall) just finished the  five-day Bruin development camp and at the end of it, the 20-year-old forward agreed to a three-year, two-way deal with the Stanley Cup champs.

“It feels like the weight of the world is off my shoulders, I mean every person I’ve talked to in the past three months has asked me, ‘Have you signed, have you signed?’”

The camp combined intensive training, rigorous fitness tests, and off-ice appearances.

“The camp went really well,” said Cunningham from his home in Warfield Monday. “It was hard as usual but it’s my second time so I kind of knew what to expect . . . I wasn’t so nervous, I was able to relax and play.”

Cunningham also attended the Bruins camp last year, coming off his best season in the WHL with the Vancouver Giants. But with the Bruins salary cap maxed out, he decided to return to junior rather than turn pro and play in the American Hockey League (AHL).

Cunningham says splitting his final year with the Giants and the Portland Winter Hawks didn’t hurt him at all - especially when he finished 12th in the league in scoring with 85 points and helped his team to the Western final.

“If I would have went back (to junior) and had a bad year, it definitely would have hurt me but I went back and played well and continued to improve in little areas of the game that they asked me to improve.”

He returns to Boston in September for the main camp, going in with the mindset that he’s going to make the team.

“There may be a small chance of it happening but that’s how you have to play, and I want to make it hard on them to make a decision. I want to stick around as long as I can.”

The Bruins stand to lose only two regular players from their lineup, Thomas Khaberle and Michael Ryder, so cracking the vaunted Bruins this year will be difficult.

Cunningham will most likely play this year in Rhode Island for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate.

“Boston has done a good job managing their players on the salary cap. They’ve locked up some guys long term so they’re there for a while.

“It’s a hard road obviously and I’m not expecting to go in and make the team this year but under the new salary cap things change so quickly . . . I’d like to be there in the third year of my contract.”

The gracious young man also acknowledges the support he’s received from his family over the years.

“I owe my mom and my brothers a lot, they gave up little things for me all the time.

“It’s not like I just signed my name but my family’s name too. Without them I wouldn’t by any means be where I am - you need support along the way.”

Cunningham will train in Vancouver over the summer.

Jim Bailey

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