Kevan Miller’s first full season as a Boston Bruin wasn’t without its difficulties, but the 28-year-old blueliner has managed to turn his five-goal, 18-point campaign as a second- and third-pairing defenseman into a brand new four-year deal.
The Bruins announced Tuesday that Miller, 28, has signed a four-year, $10-million deal carrying an annual cap hit of $2.5 million. The new deal is a significant raise from the $800,000 he was earning this past season. Miller played 71 games for the Bruins in 2015-16, which was the first time in his career he had played more than 50 games in a campaign in the NHL. Prior to the past season, Miller had appeared in 89 games for the Bruins.
The signing all but ensures Miller will be back in the Bruins lineup next season, and it appears to be one with the hope that Miller is on an upward trajectory. And that will need to be the case if the Bruins hope to improve their defense next season, especially considering Miller is one of only four defensemen the Bruins have locked up for next season along with Adam McQuaid, Dennis Seidenberg and captain Zdeno Chara.
Depending on what the Bruins do this off-season, Miller’s contract could see him become a bigger part of the Boston blueline. What exactly his role is next season will depend on who, if anyone, the Bruins re-sign or move along. Colin Miller, Joe Morrow and Torey Krug are all restricted free agents come July 1, and Zach Trotman and John-Michael Liles are both unrestricted free agents. It seems unlikely the Bruins will bring back either Trotman or Liles, but hanging on to at least two members of their defensive RFA group seems probable.
If the Bruins ink two of their free agent rearguards, the most likely spot for Miller will be in the middle of the defense as a fourth or fifth defenseman. This past season he averaged 19:03 of ice time per game, which ranked fifth among Bruins’ defensemen. However, his 2:31 of shorthanded ice time per outing was second only to Chara. Going forward, it’s likely Miller will still hold his spot on Boston’s penalty kill.
During the season, Miller spent most of his time playing alongside Chara and Krug, but he wasn’t quite a play-driving defender with either. Miller finished the season with a 49.8 percent shot attempts for percentage while starting nearly 31.5 percent of his shifts in the Bruins’ zone. That’s not a great possession number, but it was slightly better relative to his teammates.