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Expansion Draft: How does Colin Miller stack up against the other defensemen?

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The young defenseman should draw interest from Vegas, but how much?

Washington Capitals v Boston Bruins Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The Bruins released their list of protected players for the Expansion Draft today, and there wasn’t really a ton of drama.

We had a pretty good idea of who would be protected, with the only real question being which Miller would be locked down: Kevan or Colin?

Kevan Miller’s play this season is what made this even a remotely tough decision, as he elevated his game over the course of the year. Combine the improved play with a cheap contract, and it’s not hard to see why Don Sweeney protected him.

Colin Miller is a bit of a polarizing player: some people think he’s overrated and can’t put all of his skills together, while others point to the advanced stats and say he’s horribly underused by the Bruins.

The advanced stats say that many of Miller’s metrics are excellent:

He’s excellent at generating and suppressing shots, as you can see. Stats like these are part of the reason why some people are puzzled by the Bruins’ decision, though as stated above, there are legitimate reasons to protect Kevan Miller instead. (Namely he's become a good defenseman, is cheap and fills a different role than Colin Miller.)

Let’s assume, for the sake of discussion, that the Bruins don’t have a side deal with Vegas to leave Colin Miller alone. How real is the threat of him being taken?

Are there better defense options out there?

First, let’s consider who else is out there for Vegas to put on the blue line.

There are some players who are better than Miller that we can take off the list. For example, rumor has it that Anaheim has deals in place to have Vegas leave Sami Vatanen and Josh Manson alone.

Here are players out there who are reasonably close to or better than Colin Miller:

Expansion Eligible Defensemen

- Unprotected Defensemen -
- Unprotected Defensemen -
Clayton Stoner Jaycob Megna Dan Hamhuis
Jonathan Ericsson Xavier Ouellet Adam McQuaid
Niklas Kronwall Mark Fayne Zach Bogosian
Justin Falk Josh Gorges Griffin Reinhart
Jason Demers Brayden McNabb Matt Dumba
Klas Dahlbeck Marco Scandella Ben Lovejoy
Michal Rozsival Calvin de Haan Marc Barberio
Thomas Hickey Adam Clendening Patrick Wiercioch
Mark Methot Jack Johnson Chris Wideman
Ian Cole Brenden Dillon David Schlemko
Carl Gunnarsson Jason Garrison Andrej Sustr
Luca Sbisa Brooks Orpik Mark Stuart

Alright, so that’s a lot of dudes. Where do we begin?

First, we have your bad-contract veterans who Vegas probably doesn’t want to deal with: we’ll cross off guys like Niklas Kronwall, Brooks Orpik and Dan Hamhuis. Maybe Vegas takes one as a veteran presence, but the contracts aren’t ideal.

Next, there are guys who may require a side deal to be left alone: guys like Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella and maybe Calvin de Haan stand out as players whose teams may not be able to stomach having them leave for nothing.

That leaves you with a solid dozen guys who are available for Vegas to choose from on the blue line.

Where does Miller rank among them?

Here is, in no particular order, a list of guys who are close comparables to Miller, in terms of HERO chart stats: Jason Demers, Xavier Ouellet, Brayden McNabb, Mark Barberio, Chris Wideman, Ian Cole, David Schlemko and Jason Garrison.

OK, so not a bad group.

Let’s take salary into consideration: Miller is making $1 million against the cap, and is signed through next year.

Of the list above, here’s what we have:

  • Demers: $4.5 million through 2021
  • Ouellet: RFA
  • McNabb: $1.7 million through 2018
  • Barberio: $750k through 2018
  • Wideman: $800k through 2018
  • Cole: $2.1 million through 2018
  • Schlemko: $2.1 million through 2020
  • Garrison: $4.6 million through 2018

As you can see, Miller is one of the better bargains on that list. Selecting Miller would get Vegas a young defenseman who they could trial for a season before deciding whether or not to extend him.

They could do the same with Barberio and Wideman. There’s three young-ish, cheap guys on D. Maybe grab a bigger-name guy (or a bad-contract veteran), throw in a rookie or unknown and there’s your 6 defensemen.

Are there better options on the Bruins?

We know that the Bruins are losing someone. Miller is a guy whose name has been bandied about, but are there better options for Vegas on the roster?

No, not really.

I can see Vegas being interested in Adam McQuaid, just because he’s a character guy and his contact isn’t too terrible.

I can’t see why they’d take Beleskey, unless the Bruins bribe them.

They could take Jimmy Hayes, hoping he has a bounce-back year (which is statistically likely). If he does OK out there, they could probably flip him (as a pending UFA rental) at the deadline and get some assets.

Other than that? There are better goalie options out there than Anton Khudobin and Malcolm Subban, though Subban may be young enough and have enough upside to tempt McPhee. Guys like Tim Schaller can be found on the free agent market.

So...what?

It’s hard to see anyone on the Bruins being a more appealing option than Miller, really.

When you combine his age, his offensive upside, his contract status and his underlying metrics, the kid has to catch the eye of George McPhee.

The Bruins, for their part, don’t seem over-the-moon about Miller, and may think that they have enough "offensive upside" defensemen in the system (e.g. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy).

He seems to have been given a bit more leash this year, but he still found himself in the press box more often than he should have, whether due to problems with his game, poor coaching decisions or both.

Protecting Kevan Miller over Colin Miller isn’t a huge condemnation of Colin, as we discussed above the benefits to having Kevan under control.

Unless the Bruins have a deal in place with Vegas to leave Colin Miller alone (unlikely) or are bribing Vegas to take Beleskey (also unlikely), there’s a very real possibility that this piece of the Milan Lucic trade is headed to the desert.

While it certainly wouldn't be the end of the world, one can't help but think the Bruins let Miller get away before letting him realize his full potential.

Poll

Do you think Vegas takes Colin Miller?

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  • 80%
    Yes
    (520 votes)
  • 19%
    No
    (123 votes)
643 votes total Vote Now