There remains some question as to which Boston Bruins player will end up getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in Wednesday’s NHL expansion draft in Las Vegas, but the high probability is that it will be a defenseman, either Adam McQuaid or Colin Miller. If Vegas does end up making the pick for the player to eventually be on their own roster this then the informed speculation is that it could be McQuaid based on his connection to some in the Golden Knights organization.
If GM George McPhee and the Golden Knights have designs on flipping the player they lift from Boston’s unprotected list, however, it’s looking more and more like it could be the 24-year-old Miller. To make matters worse, it looks like the talented, young puck-moving defenseman might also be headed to one of Boston’s rivals in the Atlantic Division, and could be spun off to the Toronto Maple Leafs following the expansion draft, according to TSN insider Frank Seravalli.
Here’s more from Seravalli:
It’s no secret that the Leafs have been on the prowl for a top-four defenceman to add to their blueline. The NHL’s expansion draft protection scheme – with most teams opting to protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender – by definition means McPhee will have a bevy to choose from and flip as trade currency.
The Leafs’ front office would also be intimately familiar with Bruins defenceman Colin Miller, a right-shot from another division rival who could represent a more inexpensive option and fit in coach Mike Babcock’s quest to perfectly balance pairs with left and right-shooting defencemen.
Seravalli went so far as to ask if Miller is “the Leafs’ most likely target” this week to bolster their back end.
Maple Leafs assistant GM and noted fancy stats enthusiast Kyle Dubas was the GM of the Soo Greyhounds when Miller exploded on the scene as a hard-shooting, fast-skating defenseman on the fast track to the NHL. So there’s a strong connection between the Toronto front office and the 24-year-old D-man that’s shown flashes in the last two seasons at the NHL level, but has been inconsistent with his hockey sense and puck management.
Miller’s inclusion on the Boston non-protection list was twofold. There was a real lack of progress over the last two seasons combined with Boston’s overwhelming depth on the right side with Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Miller scored six goals last season while getting sporadic power play time, but also finished with three less points this past season despite playing in 19 more games for the Black and Gold. He was initially looked at as a big time top-4 prospect for the Bruins after arriving via the Milan Lucic deal with the Los Angeles Kings, but Miller was never able to tap into the kind of play that saw him post monster numbers in the AHL as a member of the Kings organization.
Miller’s puck-possession numbers have been strong over the last couple of seasons, however. It’s also undoubtedly part of the reason that an analytics-savvy group like Toronto would be interested in him above others, and would be willing to part with good assets to swing a side deal with Vegas this week. It clearly also doesn’t hurt that Miller is still a very cheap player at $1 million for next season while still working on his second NHL contract.
The reasoning was sound for the B’s to protect a big, strong, proven defenseman like Kevan Miller over Colin Miller when it came time to finalize the list, and there really isn’t a readily available spot for Miller to continue developing with Boston this season. But it will no doubt sting if Lou Lamoriello and the Maple Leafs pull the end-around after the expansion draft, and somehow find a way to siphon a talent like Miller away from the Black and Gold as the two rivals vie for Atlantic Division supremacy.