Kevan Miller was appreciative of being named the Bruins' nominee for the Masterton Trophy this season even though he never suited up for a game.
It was a recognition of his perseverance in attempting to return from a handful of procedures on his knee after a pair of catastrophic kneecap injuries have kept him out of the lineup for over a calendar year.
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The injuries robbed him of participating in last spring’s run to the Stanley Cup Final as he was knocked out for the entire postseason, and have relegated him to playing in three NHL games since February 2019. Now he’s been ruled out from playing for the Bruins when the NHL resumes this summer for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer with his career at a definite crossroads.
Despite all that, the 32-year-old Miller said that he still hasn’t entertained thoughts of retirement or given up hope that he’ll return to play in Boston or somewhere else.
“I’m grateful for all the support my friends, family, teammates, coaching staff and the organization has given me throughout this, it’s been a long haul. As a lot of you guys know, it’s taken a heavy toll mentally and physically… it’s definitely taken a toll. It’s been a long road, but I’m trying to keep things in perspective,” said Miller, during a Wednesday Zoom call with reporters. “I’m hoping to get back to 100 percent whenever that might be and get back to playing hockey.
“I haven’t gotten to that [point of giving up]. I’d be lying to you if I said that I haven’t been worried about where this is all going to end up. It’s my job and it’s part of my passion. I want to be healthy. I want to play. I know I could help the team. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you show up to the rink and you can’t skate with the guys, and it’s been so long since you’ve played in a game.”
It’s been a tough development for the Bruins, as well, who absolutely could have benefitted from Miller’s heavy, physical presence and immense strength when it came time to battle the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final last June. Miller and the Bruins both know his presence could have been a difference-maker in a series that was even enough it came down to a winner-take-all Game 7 in Boston that didn’t go the Bruins’ way.
In all reality, it’s going to be difficult to see Miller coming back to Boston given their salary cap situation and given they have a couple of affordable, young bottom-6 defensemen in Jeremy Lauzon and Connor Clifton. Lauzon, in particular, plays the big, strong stay-at-home role that Miller was known for and would give the Bruins the same kind of punishing, hard-hitting warrior in the defensive zone at a portion of the cap space of Miller.
But here’s hoping that Miller finds good health and a return to the NHL at some point in the future even as the odds — and Father Time — aren’t with him given the nature of some very serious knee injuries that have plagued him for over a year.