Last summer, the Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year extension and seemingly left the writing on the wall for Kevan Miller. Both right-shot third-pairing defensemen with similar strengths (read: toughness) and less than a year apart in age, it seemed unlikely both players would get new contracts.
Then the Bruins signed Miller to a four-year deal a year later. The move reflected how desperate the Bruins were to stop the bleeding on defense, even if it meant having something of a positional redundancy signed up for a combined $5.25 million against the cap.
Of course, the signing could have meant that they didn’t intend on keeping both players, so when the Bruins signed the 28-year-old Miller in May, it was natural to wonder if perhaps McQuaid would be on the move. Though he skated in 64 games last season (his most since the 2011-12 season), McQuaid wouldn’t figure to fetch much in a trade because of his cap hit ($2.75 million), but the team could have opted to move his money and spend it elsewhere. Speaking at Shawn Thornton’s golf tournament Monday, McQuaid said he didn’t take the Miller signing as an indication he might be moved.
“Those are the questions that everyone asks and people are wondering about, but at the same time, I think there’s a chance for both of us to continue to improve our game and hopefully be more well-rounded and grab the opportunity to play bigger minutes against tougher opposition and stuff,” McQuaid said.
As for his reaction to the contract itself, McQuaid seemingly felt differently than the many who assumed the Bruins might have let Miller walk in free agency.
“I’m not really surprised by anything,” McQuaid said. “You’re not sure how things will play out in different ways, but I wasn’t surprised. I think in my opinion, Millsy’s underrated in a lot of ways. [He’s] a guy that continues to improve and a guy that you appreciate having on your team.”
Though McQuaid has two inches on Miller, both weigh around 210 pounds and rely on physicality as stay-at-home defensemen. Injuries to one or the other has limited the time the Bruins have had to build their six-man D group relying on both being in, but last season saw both players both dress in at least three quarters of the season’s games (Miller played in 71).
As the following usage chart from Corsica Hockey indicates, the Bruins gave Miller and McQuaid similar assignments regarding their quality of competition and zone starts, though Miller fared better in terms of puck possession.
Both players spent most of their even-strength minutes with Torey Krug and had Zdeno Chara as their second-most common partners. Miller had better possession metrics with both Krug and Chara than McQuaid did, though the Bruins did better in terms of goals for per 60 when Chara was paired with McQuaid rather than Miller.
Of course, the goal should not be to have either player paired with Chara. Given the Bruins’ current roster, it would appear that either McQuaid, Miller or Colin Miller will be heading into the season. None of those situations are ideal, as the Bruins need a budding top defenseman to pair with Chara as Boston’s captain continues to regress. Right now they don’t have that. What they do have is a lot of OK right-shot defensemen.