Kraft on money management: 'Sometimes our fans get upset'

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Kraft on money management: 'Sometimes our fans get upset'

Robert Kraft was up bright an early for a Friday appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box". The Patriots chairman and CEO was joined by guest host Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans.

Kraft was his congenial self, first congratulating McNair on Houston's 2011 playoff run.

"We play you up in New England this season," the Texans owner teased, "and I don't think you'll be as gracious up there as you are now."

Houston will be without one of the best defensive lineman in the league, Mario Williams, for that 2012 tilt after relinquishing his talents to Buffalo.

McNair said it was tough to lose a key contributor like Williams. But that's business.

"What you're seeing happen is that there are a few stars around the league that are going to get a lot of money, and with a salary cap, that just means that there's less money to go around for the rest of the other players," he said.

"I think what this will do ultimately with the new CBA, which Bob Kraft helped on that tremendously, I think what it's going to do, it's going to allow the teams that are in the lower quartile an opportunity to move up faster because with the new rookie salary pool, less money is going to go to rookies. So those teams at the lower level are not penalized with the higher draft pick which would have cost them a lot of money. Now they have more money available to go out and sign other free agents and there will be good free agents out there that won't command the 96 million contracts."

Kraft was nodding in agreement.

Patriots fans -- connected via the emotional rather than financial aspect of the game -- are anxious about New England's perceived free agency failure. Williams was on the wishlist of many, despite how big a price tag he was expected to have. As each offseason hour passes, more big-name free agents re-sign, are traded, or strike agreements elsewhere -- everywhere other than New England, it seems. The team has instead brought in Steve Gregory, Marcus Harrison, and Jonathan Fanene; re-upped Dan Connolly and Matthew Slater.

Fan unrest over the lack of a sexy signing continues to grow, and it's not gone unnoticed by Kraft.

But, again, it's business.

"Bob makes a good point," he said in response to McNair. "When Mario -- and I don't know whether he was paying him 4 million 9 million -- but the point is when someone goes out and pays him 15 million if you paid him that, your team doesn't get better when you do that. I would say your team maybe gets worse because you have less money available for other players.

"And only your personnel people understand the chemistry of how that works. Sometimes our fans get upset. We're faced with a couple decisions like that, too. Both you and I want to see our teams win. It's how we manage the resources available to us that allows us to do that."

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

Haggerty: Loss of Colin Miller not a significant one for Bruins

There will be some that will absolutely crucify the Bruins for losing Colin Miller in Wednesday night’s expansion draft, and rail against an asset that was lost for nothing. Those people will also miss the absolutely essential point that the whole raison d’etre for an expansion draft is to remove assets from each of the 30 NHL teams, and do it without a cost for the benefit of the new franchise opening up shop in Las Vegas.

It could have been much worse for the Black and Gold as some teams were shipping first round picks to Vegas to shelter their own players from expansion selection, and other teams were losing essential players like James Neal, Marc Methot and David Perron from their respective rosters. The B’s didn’t entertain overpaying simply to avoid losing a useful player, and clearly, they did lose a talented, still undeveloped player in the 24-year-old Miller, who now may be flipped to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a side deal with Vegas.

But let’s be honest here. A whole lot of people are vastly overestimating a player in Miller that’s long on tools and very short on putting them together, and they’re also vastly underestimating Kevan Miller. The younger Miller can skate like the wind and has a bazooka of a shot when he winds up and fires his clapper at the net.

But despite those clear offensive talents, Colin had the same number of points as stay-at-home defenseman Kevan this season despite the bigger, stronger and older Miller playing three less games this season. Kevan also had more goals (five) and more points (18) than Colin did two years ago in his rookie season for Boston.

This isn’t to say that Colin doesn’t have more discernible offensive skill than Kevan when it comes to moving the puck or creating offense. He does, but all that talent hasn’t manifested into real points, real offense or anything else for the Black and Gold over the last couple of seasons. At a certain point, a prospect like Colin needs to put all the tools together into production on the ice if he wants to become the sum of his hockey parts, and that hasn’t happened in two full seasons in Boston.

Instead, Miller continues to struggle with decision-making with the puck, consistency and finding ways to turn the quality skating and shot package into any kind of playmaking on the ice. Miller had his challenges defensively and he was never going to be the most physical guy on the ice, but those could have been overlooked if he was lighting it up in the offensive zone on a regular basis.

Plain and simple that wasn’t happening, and over the last season 20-year-old Brandon Carlo and 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy passed Miller on the organizational depth chart for right shot defenseman, and either Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller would slot in as the third pairing D-man on the right side. It’s clear at this point that Colin Miller needs more time and patience if he’s ever going to develop as a late-blooming defenseman at the NHL level, and he wasn’t going to get those opportunities to develop in Boston.

So how good can Colin Miller really be if he was about to get buried on a Boston defensive depth chart without much hope of being in the starting six every night unless he was able to magically transform himself into a top-4 guy on the left side?

Clearly, there is risk here as Miller could move on to Toronto, develop into the player that posted 19 goals and 52 points in the AHL a couple of seasons ago and torment the Bruins for the next five-plus years. It would become another arrow in the quiver of those critics looking to hammer GM Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely at every turn, and it would generate massive “Why can’t we get players like that?” homages to the legendary Bob Lobel all across New England.    

But there’s just as good a chance that Kevan Miller will still be throwing hits and soaking up heavy minutes of ice time for the Bruins three years down the road, and that Colin Miller will be out of the league after never harnessing together his considerable talent. Perhaps Sweeney could have been better about securing an asset for Miller ahead of the expansion draft if he knew he was going to lose that player for nothing to Vegas.

The bottom line is that the Bruins were going to lose somebody to Las Vegas in the expansion draft, and the Golden Knights weren’t going to do them any favors by taking on misfit toys like Jimmy Hayes, Malcolm Subban or Matt Beleskey. They did instead lose a player with plenty of raw talent in Colin Miller, but it’s not exactly somebody that’s going to be missed in Boston once Carlo and McAvoy start showing just how bright the B’s future is on the back end starting next season.