Boston Bruins president Cam Neely said the signing of prospect Mitchell Miller was his biggest regret as an NHL executive, and he expressed concern over failures in the team's vetting process.
"I'm extremely upset that we have made a lot of people unhappy with our decision," Neely said Monday. "I take a lot of pride in the Bruins organization and what we stand for, and we failed there."
The Bruins signed Miller, a 20-year-old defenseman, on Friday to an entry-level contract with the intention of sending him to AHL Providence. The team, however, announced Sunday night that it was parting ways with Miller after intense backlash from fans, the team's own players and commissioner Gary Bettman.
Said Bettman on Saturday: "I can't tell you that he'll ever be eligible to come into the NHL."
Miller was a fourth-round pick by the Arizona Coyotes in 2020, but his draft rights were relinquished when a story was published about how he and another middle school classmate were convicted in juvenile court in 2016 of assaulting and bullying Isaiah Meyer-Crothers, a Black classmate with developmental disabilities. In the report, Meyer-Crothers' mother alleged Miller began abusing her son in second grade and repeatedly used racial slurs.
Neely said the possibility of signing Miller was first broached in August. The Bruins said Sunday that they decided to cut ties with him "based on new information." When asked about that Monday, Neely said the fact that the Bruins never reached out to the family of Meyer-Crothers "was concerning to me" and that it was "absolutely" a problem with the team's vetting process.
"We like to take pride in what we do in the community and we hold ourselves accountable," said Neely, who said he plans to reach out to the family of Meyer-Crothers. "We dropped the ball, and I'm here to apologize.
"I'll say it again: I want to apologize to Isaiah and his family. It's something that they shouldn't continue to go through."
Why did the Bruins believe Miller deserved a chance in the NHL, after the Coyotes passed?
"From everything I've heard, he was working on himself, working in programs to better himself," Neely said. "I was under the impression it was a 14-year-old kid who made a really, really bad decision and did some horrible things, and he's 20 years old now. I was under the impression that he, in the last six years, had done a lot of work on himself."
The Bruins president, however, said the team "could've dug deeper" on Miller before signing him.
The initial backlash came from NHL fans and quickly extended to Boston's own players, who were on the road in Toronto and had been told that Miller would be signed. Captain Patrice Bergeron called Miller's actions "unacceptable, and we don't stand by that."
On Saturday, while in Finland for the NHL Global Series, Bettman said Miller's future in the league was uncertain. The NHLPA told ESPN on Saturday that it had not been informed of any suspension or disciplinary action by the NHL toward Miller.
Neely said Boston GM Don Sweeney spoke with deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Wednesday about signing Miller.
"From what I gather, [NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly] said that Mitchell would have to get in front of Gary Bettman if he was going to play in the NHL," Neely said.
Neely called the signing of Miller his biggest regret "by far" as an executive. It came at a time when the Bruins are off to their best start in franchise history (10-2-0).
"The timing of it was never probably going to be good," Neely said. "I think it got down to the point of [whether] we're doing it or not. And we made the wrong decision."
ESPN's Ryan S. Clark contributed to this report.