By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — It’s really this simple: There is no more valuable commodity in the modern NHL than a young, skilled defenseman.


Full stop.

The evidence of this reality is immense, but for a recent example, look at the price the Washington capitals just paid for a few months of Kevin Shattenkirk’s service: two forwards, a first-round pick and a second-round pick. Whichever team signs Shattenkirk this summer will have to hand him a $50 million contract.

The Calgary Flames sent a first-round pick and a pair of second-round picks to Boston in order to acquire Dougie Hamilton, who was a restricted free agent at the time.

The New York Rangers traded Anthony Duclair, John Moore, a first-round pick and a second-round pick to acquire Keith Yandle, who had two years left on his contract at $5.3 million per year.

The list could go on, but for the sake of brevity we’ll stop here. If you want to acquire a young, skilled defenseman from outside your own system, you’re going to have to pay. A lot.

And so, when the news leaked that the Las Vegas Golden Knights would be claiming Colin Miller from the Boston Bruins, there should only have been one reaction: Yeah, no kidding.

This is not to say that Colin Miller is the next Kris Letang. Hardly. To be frank, once Claude Julien was fired and Miller started to get more ice time under Bruce Cassidy, the world saw what had kept the previous coach from dressing Miller on a nightly basis. The work he could perform with the puck on his stick was at times masterful; what he did the rest of the time was quite often questionable.

He was the best skater among Bruins blue-liners and ranked second among Bruins D-men in even-strength goals, but he was clearly not the complete package.

As a defenseman, the defense was often lacking in Miller’s game. He often skated himself out of position, and at the NHL level, that’s going to lead to problems more often than not.

But of course, Miller is just 24 years old. He’s been moderately decent at the NHL level while displaying loads of upside. And he also has a 2014-15 season with 62 points in 81 AHL games as well as a 62-point output in 60 games in his final OHL season. Stat totals in juniors and the minors don’t necessarily translate to great NHL success, but they do show the raw capabilities of Miller when it comes to generating offense from the blue line.

And considering all of that, when his name was left on the list of exposed players for the expansion draft, it might as well have been in bold. Or underlined. Or spotlighted with a big, fat yellow highlighter. He was going to be taken.

Here was a 24-year-old D-man with 100 games of NHL experience and a year of term left on his contract, available for nothing but an expansion draft pick?

For Las Vegas, who can either employ the man or flip him in a trade, it’s a no-brainer.

Likewise, protecting Miller should have been just as easy a decision for the Bruins. (That is, of course, assuming the Bruins at least somewhat value Miller.)

Instead, the Bruins made some questionable decisions for the protected list, including Riley Nash, Ryan Spooner and Kevan Miller.

On Spooner (a restricted free agent), the idea is that he might draw a return in a trade. If the rights to the underperforming forward does draw a return of any substance at all, that would be considered a bit of a surprise.

Nash is a 28-year-old bottom-six forward who is useful in a number of roles but is not necessarily a player that other teams would covet. Certainly, he wasn’t exactly considered a big-ticket acquisition when the Bruins signed him to a two-year deal at $900,000 per year last July.

But Spooner and Nash are, obviously, forwards, so they don’t necessarily belong in the conversation with Colin Miller.

Which brings us to Kevan Miller. While some spectators in the region point to the latter half of his season and his postseason performance as evidence that Miller is a valuable commodity, the reality is that his performance was only being compared to his own previous performances. He was better than he had been, yes, but all that does is make him better than the Kevan Miller of old. It does not make him better than, say, 15 or 20 other available defensemen in the expansion draft.

The mere fact that Miller wasn’t stumbling over his own feet or coughing up the puck in his own end or doing whatever the heck he was doing right here inspired people to say, “Hey, he hasn’t been a total disaster.” That is not commentary that is generally reserved for a top-tier player in the NHL.

That’s a subjective judgment, sure, but with a bit of a redundancy in skill-set (and injury frequency) between Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid, and with $13 million committed to those two players, there would have been a salary-related benefit to increasing the chances of losing one of those players.

There’s also this aspect: The Bruins traded Milan Lucic in 2015 for Martin Jones, Colin Miller and a pick that turned into Jakub Zboril. Just two years later, the Bruins only have Zboril to show for it. Zboril had a nice third season in the QJMHL this past season, but he’s anything but a known commodity as far as being an NHL defenseman.

In showing a bit of over-commitment to some role players, the Bruins lost sight of a league-wide trend that was sure to rear its head in this expansion draft. On the scale of catastrophic decisions, it’s probably a 1.5 out of 10. But it was, nevertheless, a misjudgment.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

Comments (13)
  1. “here is why the screwed up” followed by an entire article of how he’s not that great… c’mon, son. They’ve got a good mix in D and the only reason they had issues there was because of how devastated the lines were from injury. They’ve already got a great mix of seasoned players in Chara (who despite his lead legs later in the season has great leadership), McQuaid’s a grizzled vet, etc… then you have folks like McAvoy and Krug who are young bucks forming the new future core and are quite young. I’m not going to say they lost nothing, he certainly had some value, but I wouldn’t characterize it as a screw up

    1. It was a big screw up if you actually look at their entire defense, lack of cap space and their complete overreach on Kevan Miller’s abilities.

      1. Adam Finelli says:

        Bruins are $13MM under the cap…

        And they have good young defenseman coming up through the system.

        Overreach on Killer’s abilities? Did you watch him this year? Did you watch the playoffs? Do you even watch hockey? Your posts raise serious questions on all of those issues.

  2. Adam Finelli says:

    This article is absolute drivel. I would much rather have K. Miller than C. Miller. And in your trade analysis, you ignore the return on Martin Jones. In addition, you mention forwards that they protected instead of Miller. At this point, the only people that are paying attention to this and still don’t understand the allotments between forward and defense for the purposes of this draft, are idiots. So, either you aren’t paying attention, or you’re an idiot. Regardless, it was still the right move for Boston. We are gnashing our teeth over losing a commodity that has had 3 years to prove his worth, yet still hasn’t? Oh, and we have depth at D for the first time in years anyway. How do you think Florida feels right now? They just lost a young 30 goal scorer

    1. Facts seem to escape you because you are 100% WRONG!
      Colin Miller had 2, that’s TWO years to prove himself. 103 games he played over 2 seasons and at least one of those seasons he had a hard time cracking the lineup because of CLAUDE, who everyone knew didn’t like the kids and prefered a Veteran every single time.
      He’s 24 years old, most DMan don’t hit their Prime years until around 26/27 years old.
      Sweeney has repeatedly said that they have to be patient with young players then he freely exposes Colin Miller for nothing. Colin also had the best CORSI defensively on the team, was the best skater and had the best shot, you DON’T let players like that walk away for nothing.
      The Bruins also need to gain more Cap space, if they had worked out a trade with Vegas to take one of: Kevan Miller, McQuaid, Hayes or Beleskey (all the guys that should have been exposed) they could have received some cap relief. No matter how you shake it, it was a MISTAKE to allow Colin Miller to go. Oh and by the way, there are rumors that Toronto wants to trade for Colin so we’ll all get to see how they develop him right under our very noses, awesome.

      1. Adam Finelli says:

        Chill out Wendy. So, i overstated his tenure here by a year. The fact remains that he showed very little in those two years. Are you married to Hurley or something? You’re all over this article defending everything you can. Outside of Killer, those guys were exposed in the draft. and guess what, Vegas didn’t want them. you talk about trading them like they have value. (McQuaid probably does, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him traded in the next month or two). Why would Vegas trade for an asset they can draft for free? Don’t tell me i’m 100% WRONG!! and then spew a bunch of nonsense. Oh, hang on…. that’s right…. Corsi. it’s all that matters. When a trade is made a day after acquiring the player in a previous trade, it’s 100% correct to trace it back to it’s roots. Come back when you know what the hell you’re talking about.

  3. Ummm the Lucic trade also yielded Sean Kuraly and Trent Frederic. Also, you have to think that with Grzelyck, O’ Gara, and the emergence of Carlo and McAvoy the Bruins are trending in the right direction. Furthermore, DS will add a D in the coming days. Btw, all the skill Miller is supposed to bring yielded the same amount of points as the other Miller. So ya, who cares

    1. Not exactly.

      Kuraly was acquired in the Martin Jones trade, It’s stupid to trace a trade all the way back to it’s beginning, so Hurley has it correct as written.

      And Colin Miller is only 24 years old, he still has much to learn, you’re expecting too much too soon. Meanwhile you completely forget that the B’s desperately need more cap space and could have got it if they pushed Beleskey, Hayes, McQuaid or Kevan Miller out the door instead of Colin Miller who makes all of $1m.

      1. Adam Finelli says:

        Wendy, I think you are confusing Cap Space with Caps Lock….

  4. You only glossed over the money part. The fact the Bruins, who lack cap space and desperately need more of it, let a $1m a year player walk for nothing vs pushing the $2.5+m a year players out the door is beyond stupid! Another fact left out is that Colin Miller had the best CORSI on the team, so he wasn’t nearly as bad as most people make him out to be. He’s 24, still learning and should have been KEPT.

  5. How many more seasons will Sweeney be allowed to ruin the Bruins?

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