The Bruins announced on Tuesday, January 21, that the club had signed defenseman Kevan Miller to a two-year, one-way contract through the 2015-16 season.
Miller was first signed by the Bruins to a two-year, entry-level contract on October 21, 2011, after his four-year career at the University of Vermont. He was re-signed as a restricted free agent to a one-year deal on July 19, 2013.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound defensive defenseman has impressed through his first 16 NHL games with Boston during the 2013-14 season, after making his debut on November 21, 2013 against the St. Louis Blues.
His first NHL goal came four games later, in Toronto on December 8, and proved to be the game-winner.
"He's a defensive defenseman who makes good strong plays," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, after Miller's debut came with Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid sidelined by injuries. "He was strong, I really liked his game. I thought he was a poised player out there for his first real NHL game."
"This is my third year and you just have to believe in the process - a lot of guys have been in the same situation, so it's a great feeling," Miller had said.
"The Bruins have done a good job as an organization obviously at bringing guys up and developing them. So I patiently waited down there, just trying to be ready."
The 26-year-old had originally been sent back down to the Providence Bruins prior to playing in his 10th NHL game. If he played Game No. 10, he would have been subject to waivers on the way down, and likely claimed. Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli didn't want to take that risk.
"He's a strong, physical D-man. He's physically mature, he can handle guys, he can close well, so he played well," Chiarelli has said of his play.
But when the Bruins lost Seidenberg for the rest of the season, after suffering an ACL/MCL tear in his right knee, Miller again got the call on December 30, and has remained with the team ever since.
"He's played really well when he's been here and whether he's here for the year or not, I think the call is going to be upper management to decide that. But I think there's a pretty good chance we brought him up to stay for a while," Julien had said after the recall.
"And I think it's just a matter of him continuing to play the way he did. I thought he was a good player for us. When you lose a guy like Seidenberg, you want another guy who's going to bring you some size and some strength and he brings that to the table."
"He's here right now because he's deserving of being here."
Miller's steady, poised, stay-at-home play has him fitting in on the ice, and he's easily slid into the locker room.
The Los Angeles, California native spent two full seasons in Providence before getting his first call to the big club. He knows fellow blueliners like Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug well, and spent all of training camp and the team-building trip with the Bruins prior to the season.
Teammates like Captain Zdeno Chara always have high marks for the defenseman.
"I've been impressed with him since he got here," Chara has said. "And that's not just right now when he got called up but even in training camp, playing really solid and strong on both ends of the ice; offensively and defensively."
"Preseason, exhibition games, he's just really a solid defenseman to have so I'm not surprised and obviously I'm very happy that we have him."
In the Bruins' most recent game, a 3-2 win over Miller's hometown LA Kings, the defenseman was relied on to kill a 4-on-3 penalty. He's a go-to for the penalty kill often. He also showed his physicality, leading all skaters with five hits, including two heavy highlight hits on Kings Captain Dustin Brown.
"He was really solid for us tonight. Big body, threw some heavy checks, and was a big factor in our win today because again, we're a little young back there," Julien said postgame, of Miller's upped performance with a once again depleted Bruins' back end.
"Yeah, when guys get out of the lineup like Seids and [Dougie] Hamilton, more responsibility falls on the guys in the lineup and it is obviously a confidence booster," said Miller, who may be less experienced, but has bred consistency in his game.
With the defenseman's one-way contract that will start when the puck drops on the 2014-15 season, he's earned NHL pay, whether he plays at either level.
"He just has to go out there and continue to play the same way; have that confidence to bring that game night in, night out," Julien said, before Miller earned sustained time back in the Spoked-B.
"Because from what he did, now it becomes, ‘Can you become consistent at doing that?' And if you are, then before you know it, you'll be in the NHL - for good."
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