By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Days after the Bruins’ 2016-17 season ended, veteran defenseman Adam McQuaid was asked about the possibility he could be one of the original members of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights come fall.
“I hope not,” McQuaid responded. “I hope I’m back here. As I’ve always said how much I love it here and I can’t imagine playing for another team. So it’s totally out of my control but hopefully that’s not the case.”
Although there’s still a strong possibility the Golden Knights will stay away from the injury-prone McQuaid in the expansion draft this week, he was among the notable players left unprotected by the Bruins when the draft lists were released on Sunday. The list of unprotected players also included Colin Miller, Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, restricted free agent Tim Schaller and Anton Khudobin.
For my money, the Golden Knights wouldn’t go wrong if they picked Schaller, who had seven goals in 59 games last season (averaging 12 minutes per game) while playing up and down the lineup. There seems to be potential for more there and Schaller’s work ethic would unquestionably help set the tone in Las Vegas.
If Vegas selects Schaller, it will render the biggest debate over the Bruins’ list moot. But until we see what Vegas decides, the Kevan Miller vs. Colin Miller discussion will rage. The Bruins decided to protect the 29-year-old Kevan (who’ll turn 30 in November) instead of Colin, who’ll turn 25 in October. The Bruins have Kevan signed for three more seasons at an annual cap charge of $2.5 million, while Colin will make $1 million this season and then be a restricted free agent after 2017-18.
There are solid reasons for the present and future that the Bruins made the right decision, beginning with Kevan’s improved play last season after Bruce Cassidy took over as head coach and Colin’s inability to take the next step and have his skills make up for his shortage of hockey sense. The hatred of Kevan is a staple of the hot-take crowd that is prone to spit on almost everything decision made by NHL general managers in order be right about a lot of things because there are more negative outcomes than positive when it comes to player personnel (otherwise everyone would be an All-Star and every team would have a winning record).
This season the Bruins are going to attempt to improve on their result from last season and go beyond the first round. More importantly, they’re going to try to break in another young defenseman or two and you can’t just throw a bunch of rookies on the ice with Zdeno Chara and hope to accomplish either goal. You need veterans with experience and versatility and Kevan gives you that at a reasonable price, especially if he plays the way he did in the Ottawa playoff series.
Colin might still have potential to give the Bruins more down the road, but they clearly don’t value him as much now compared to when they acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings two years ago. Hardly anyone has seen more of Colin than Cassidy and new assistant coach Kevin Dean. GM Don Sweeney has seen a lot of Colin as an opponent in the AHL and as a prospect with his team. These three guys have made a determination that Colin doesn’t quite fit their plan, although they’d probably be fine if Vegas left Colin on the Bruins’ roster.
Sweeney has to game plan beyond this season, two or three years down the road. Colin already makes six figures and even if he has another mixed-bag season like last year, he’ll be due a decent raise. With the cap ceiling always in danger of staying steady, Sweeney has to look at what he’ll be paying the likes of David Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy down the road and make sure he’s not devoting too much of his payroll to players that might have potential but have been slow in showing it. There are legit prospects coming through the system that will make Colin expendable. Heck, Kevan might even become expendable, but as a right-shot with experience that’s signed at an affordable rate, he has more trade value.
In his talks with Vegas, Sweeney should be inquiring about unprotected players from other teams like Minnesota’s Matt Dumba, the New York Islanders’ Calvin de Haan and Columbus’ Josh Anderson, if those players’ teams haven’t already made side deals to keep them from heading for Vegas.
As far as making his own side deal, there’s no reason for Sweeney to go all out to keep his defense corps intact. He’s already made the right decision whether Vegas takes Colin Miller or not.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.