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The hip checks of Kevan Miller may have cast a pretty large shadow, but in case you may have forgotten, the Bruins do still employ Darth Quaider.
The 27 year-old defenseman went out with a mysterious lower-body injury in January, eventually revealed to be a quad, and also battled ankle issues. McQuaid had surgery in May, snubbing any chance of a return during the postseason. In his four years up with the big club, he has yet to make it through an NHL season without missing time due to injuries. It’s shades of Andrew Ference early on in his time with the Bruins. Or, if the front office decides to move on from Adam McQuaid during the offseason, it’ll reflect more closely with Mark Stuart at the end of his.
When he played, he was solid. Number 54 rebounded after finishing the lockout-shortened season with a 0 +/-, this year reaching a +12 in 30 games played. Provided his health, he was also on pace to have his better season in point production. He had 6 points, match Kevan Miller's total in 17 less games. He was a nice, responsible defenseman who imposed his will physically on the opposition, and added grit to the third pairing as he skated alongside the smaller, quicker Torey Krug.
And as usual, McQuaid wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves when the opportunity was presented. Sometimes for good reasons, like when he fought John Scott following his hit on Loui Eriksson. Sometimes, for...odd reasons(?), like when he inexplicably fought Bobby Robbins and got his ass kicked during training camp.
But the bottom line is, McQuaid at his best is a third-pairing defenseman. Fifth & sixth defensemen on average get roughly $1-$1.5 million a year. McQuaid’s cap hit is on the higher side of this, at $1.56 per season, and his salary in real dollars jumps up to $1.8 million next season in the last year of his deal. With the emergence of Kevan Miller as the new heavy-hitting, physically imposing blue liner, and his team-friendly $1.6 million owed over the next two seasons, the obvious question for the Bruins is "Does Adam McQuaid’s cost prohibit him from being a depth defenseman?" Certainly he’d be more of an impact player than Corey Potter or Andrej Meszaros, but will the Bruins pay him to play when someone else goes down?
Head-to-head, McQuaid faired a little better overall, with a higher points-per-game average. Average plus/minus was a wash, as were their Corsi and Fenwick For percentages. The biggest discrepancy came in the ZS%, measuring offensive zone starts against total zone starts. McQuaid was on the ice far more in the defensive zone, showing a little trust in his defensive ability and responsibility.
There are also concerns regarding his health. He has yet to play a full season in the NHL. His best year was 2011-12, when he dressed for 88% of the Bruins’ regular season schedule, but then missed the playoffs with a quad strain—the same nagging injury that plagued him last season (One more and I’m calling him Adam McQuad). Since he came on as a starter in 2010-11, he’s played just 68% of the regular season. If his salary were adjusted to pay someone playing a full 82 games, they’d be earning $2.06 million a season, all the more making the case against both his cap hit and ability to stay healthy.
Verdict: Incomplete/Needs Improvement
If the Bruins don’t decide to pull the trigger on an Adam McTrade during the off-season, the silver lining is that this will be a contract year before he becomes a UFA. He’ll need to return to form next season as this will be his last opportunity to truly earn a new contract. Until this point, McQuaid hasn’t had much competition coming up from the minors, with Krug and Bartkowski filling different roles and needs.
But Kevan Miller poses a threat to McQuaid. They won’t fight each other (...unless, you know, maybe… one can dream), but they will be fighting for a roster spot. With the price tag included in the decision, he’ll have to definitively out-play Miller through training camp, into the regular season, all the while staying healthy. And while I love me some McQuaid, I don’t love his odds for being on the roster through the end of the next season.