Boston Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller didn’t appear to fit into the team’s plans heading into the 2013-14 season. While Miller was solid during training camp and in preseason games, he figured to be a loser in the numbers game that is building an NHL roster.
That was the case when Miller was sent back to Providence shortly before the regular season started. Miller apparently took the unfortunate news in stride and didn’t let the trip back to the American Hockey League get him down. Injuries in Boston opened a door for Miller. The D-man was recalled on an emergency basis in November and played three games including his NHL debut on Nov. 21.
Miller played well in what was a short stint with the big club. He played three games before being sent back down to Providence. In the brief time with the B’s, though, Miller earned plenty of praise from Boston head coach Claude Julien.
“Kevan Miller played extremely well,” Julien said. “He’s a defensive defenseman who makes good strong plays; he did that tonight. He was strong, I really liked his game. I thought he was a poised player out there for his first real NHL game.”
Miller went back down for a couple of weeks only to be recalled at the beginning of December. He went back down as he approached the 10-game mark. Once he hit 10 games, Miller would have to clear waivers before returning to Providence should he be recalled again. Dennis Seidenberg‘s season-ending injury left the Bruins with no choice, though. Miller was recalled again on Dec. 30, and he hasn’t showed any signs of going anywhere any time soon.
The Bruins rewarded Miller on Tuesday for what has been very solid play in his first NHL season. The B’s gave Miller, who was set to be a restricted free agent after this season, a two-year, one-way contract through the 2015-16 season. Regardless of what the Bruins’ future plans are with Miller, the two-year deal is certainly a sign that he’s turned himself into a valuable NHL player.
Maybe it’s just coincidence, but the announcement Miller’s new contract came just a day after one of his best games at the NHL level. Miller saw 19:05 of ice time on Monday afternoon in a win over the Los Angeles Kings. The California native put three shots on goal and added a game-high five hits. Two of those hits were big momentum-building checks on Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Miller was rewarded for that solid play with some big ice time in the third period. He logged 7:21 in the final frame, which trailed only veteran blue-liners Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk among Bruins D-men in the third period. Almost two and a half minutes of that ice time came in the final four minutes of what was a one-goal game.
“So it’s an opportunity, as I always say,” Julien said prior to Monday’s game, “for them to show that they can handle themselves and at the same time we’re looking forward to seeing them handle some maybe bigger situations and you live with that and you move forward and understand that this is part of the game.”
Miller has apparently already proved that he can handle those situations. The Bruins confirmed that Tuesday when they handed Miller a new, well-deserved contract.