By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Fare thee well, Colin Miller. It seems like we hardly knew ye.
Miller was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft on Wednesday.
We’ll always have your own goal against Columbus on Nov. 10. I’m sure Tuukka Rask still gets a chuckle out of that one. We’ll also have your frantic blind passes and those delay of game penalties. And all that potential prospect hounds constantly boasted about and those positive Corsi numbers that made some sections of the fan base and media claim you should be getting more playing time than every Bruins defenseman not named Chara.
Maybe some day you’ll mature into a regular in an NHL top six, but here’s one bit of advice from someone who’s never played hockey: your rocket hard shot is useless if you can’t get it to land in the same zip code as the net.
Down the road, the decision to protect Kevan Miller instead of Colin Miller might come back to bite Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in the derriere. But in the present, it’s the right move for keeping the Bruins on the right path with the right mix of younger players and veterans. Colin Miller just didn’t fit in on the current roster, and he didn’t figure into the Bruins’ future plans.
Losing Miller for nothing puts a dent in the haul the Bruins got in the Milan Lucic trade, and the subsequent trade of Martin Jones to San Jose, prior to the 2015 draft. But those two transactions will still be seen as a positive turning point if Sweeney’s plans unfold the way he wants over the next handful of seasons.
The Bruins still have defenseman Jakub Zboril and Trent Frederic, both taken with first-round picks in 2015, in their pipeline. And Sean Kuraly, who was acquired from the Sharks, showed signs last season that he could be a solid pro worthy of a regular spot on the third or fourth line.
More importantly, though, moving Lucic gave the Bruins salary-cap flexibility that they’re still benefiting from, including their ability to extend Brad Marchand before last season, and the room they have to extend David Pastrnak this summer.
Lucic was costing the Bruins $6 million per season and coming off an 18-year goal year when Sweeney decided the odds were against Lucic improving in the seasons ahead. Sweeney has been mostly right, as Lucic has scored 20 and 23 goals in the two seasons since leaving Boston. Maybe Lucic’s presence would’ve been the difference in the Bruins making rather than missing the playoffs in 2015, but Sweeney & Co. knew it was time for a reboot and they weren’t really going to contend that season. They needed to get their act together to contend in 2018 and beyond.
As it turned out, Lucic cashed in with another $6 million per season contract with Edmonton. The Bruins knew a similar commitment wasn’t in their best interest, when you consider the contracts they had to complete with Marchand, Pastrnak, Torey Krug and prospects that will be looking for new contracts in the years ahead. Heck, in the summer of 2015, Sweeney was even hoping that at some point, Jimmy Hayes would be blossoming into a player worthy of a heftier contract. Not all his wishes have come true.
Regardless of his intangibles and the chances that he could again be a 30-goal scorer, Lucic wasn’t worth devoting so much salary cap space for half a decade based on the pool of talent Sweeney envisioned donning Bruins sweaters in the year ahead.
Sweeney’s made his share of questionable personnel moves and he’s made some shrewd ones. Losing Colin Miller for nothing wasn’t the best example of asset management, but the Lucic trade opened up possibilities for the Bruins’ improvement, and could become a stone-cold win depending on the accomplishments of three young players that are still very much in the Bruins’ plans.