GM Glen Sather attempted to act swiftly to address the Rangers’ depth issue at forward last week, but after Jason Arnott failed his physical the team is still left searching for forwards. Acquiring bottom-six forward Benn Ferriero appears to have been a savvy move, but New York is still thin up front.
The free agent market is barren, so it’s likely that the Rangerswill need to recall another player from Connecticut at some point due to injury, suspension or some other unforeseen circumstances. Thus far, the Rangers have deployed Brandon Segal and Kris Newbury, both of who were immediately sent back to the Whale after one-game cameos with the big club. Neither impressed and coach John Tortorella didn’t seem to have any trust in them, so neither can be seen as anything more than an emergency stopgap solution.
The one player that many think might be capable of doing more is 2011 first-round pick J.T. Miller, but it’s pretty likely that Miller won’t get more than cup of tea this year. Miller has been a quick study in his path to the pros and has a very well rounded game. Based on talent alone, he might make the most sense to be the next in line. But even if the Rangers face a desperate situation in which a vital top-six forward is lost for an extended period of time, it’s doubtful that Miller will join the Blueshirts for more than a quick look.
The chief reason has nothing to do with Miller’s NHL readiness – as always it comes down to money. Miller is in a similar situation to that of Chris Kreider last spring; if he plays more than five NHL games this season, it burns a year off his Entry Level contract*. That’s something the Rangers can’t afford.
*Miller’s time in the AHL this season doesn’t burn a year of his Entry Level deal because he’s only 19.
Assuming Miller played this year and then became a regular across the next two seasons, it would put him in line to be a free agent in the summer of 2015, when New York could be in major cap trouble.
Marc Staal will also be due for a new deal that offseason and Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan, Marian Gaborik, Brian Boyle, Ryan Callahan, Dan Girardi, Henrik Lundqvist and Michael Del Zotto will all be due for new deals (and in most cases, raises) between now and then.
The point being: New York has a ton of hefty contracts to dole out over the next couple of seasons and cannot afford to add another presumably pricey youngster it wants to keep long-term to that mess right away.
Miller’s development may be better served by a full season in Connecticut anyway, but the extra year delay toward his free agency will also be critical to the Rangers’ roster planning.