Apr
02

It’s time the Rangers committed to JT Miller

April 2, 2016, by
J.T. Miller, Jesper Fast

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

You know that kid J.T. Miller? He’s quite good at this thing they call hockey. Miller has surely, finally established himself as a New York Ranger and is fast becoming (if he hasn’t already) a Rangers fan favourite with his all-action, never stop style. He’s also going to get paid this summer.

Given the sudden surge in his development this season, and despite the way the Rangers are hard pressed against the cap, the Rangers need to go against their usual process and think long term with Miller when discussing a new deal this summer. Sure, there’s a lot of hockey left in the season (we hope) and things could change, but there really is no reason the Rangers should be thinking ‘bridge deal’ when it comes to Miller.

Last summer the Rangers inked Miller to what has now become an absolute bargain one year $874k contract. It was arguably put up or shut up time for the inconsistent but still talented Miller. With 21 goals and 20 assists this season (and counting), Miller has put up. He has played physical, he’s getting better in his own zone and he has certainly developed offensively – with more growth to come. He’s done all this even though he has again been moved around the line-up quite a bit by Alain Vigneault (hey, who hasn’t right?).

In a season of maddening inconsistency, underwhelming performances from most of the big names and in a year that has offered more reason for scepticism for the future than it has optimism, Miller has been a rare reason for long term hope for the fanbase. For the most part he’s outplayed most of the other younger core roster players such as Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider.

Miller has shown enough this year to suggest that he finally ‘gets it’. As a restricted free agent, the Rangers still have control over Miller’s future but this isn’t a time to play (too much) hard ball with one of the better younger players on the roster and the one that has shown the sharpest learning curve throughout the year. The Rangers usually go bridge – as they did with the likes of Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast – but slightly overpaying Miller now, would be the best course of action for the long term.

Let’s say the Rangers give him a two year bridge deal paying him 2m per year. In two years time, Miller has had back to back 50 point seasons (completely realistic projections) and at 25 is likely a three time 20 goal scorer looking for his first long term deal. Good luck getting that contract under 6m per year Jeff Gorton.

Teams such as the Florida Panthers (think Nick Bjugstad and Alex Barkov) have gone down this path a lot in recent times – overpaying talent in the short term to control the long term – and I’m not a great fan of significantly overpaying for relatively small bodies of work but if the money is sensible the Rangers need to go down this route with Miller.

The young American forward has the makings of a long term Ranger; he has 60 point potential (maybe more?) and the potential to be a disruptive force on every shift. Would (spitballing here) a 6 year $25m contract look like good value in 2 or 3 years time when Miller is peaking? It sure would.

Right now maybe a 4 to $5m per year contract is too rich for Miller’s production and (still) slightly inconsistent game, but even with cap issues on the immediate horizon the Rangers need to find a way to lock down Miller long term even if it means going against organisational policy. The Rangers have a lot of turnover coming their way over the next summer or two. It would be nice if a homegrown, emerging stud such as JT Miller would be locked down amid all the presumptive change.

"It's time the Rangers committed to JT Miller", 3 out of 5 based on 5 ratings.
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37 comments

  1. Walt says:

    JT Miller has done everything that AV asked of him, plus some. The kid has been a yo yo, all season long, playing on all lines, and putting up numbers greater that Stepan.

    I am in favor of paying a bit more now, rather than down the road. Let’s face it, everyone had little faith in his ability, yet he proved them wrong. He is worthy of a nice contract, and treatment, as we did with McD, getting years worth of playing time from him, that long term will be at a reasonable cost.

    The problem is Kreider, who has done nothing all season long, but all of a sudden he is scoring nicely. He may reach 20 goals this year, but hasn’t played at the level we would expect of him??????? His bridge agreement is up, and now he should be signed to a contract for at least 4 years, but at what cost????????

    Hayes is my biggest issue next season. He can play the game when he wants to, but likes to loaf a bit, and is soft as jello. For a man that size, he plays like a 5’5″ dude, avoids contact like the plague. Kind of reminds me of a guy named Murray Hall, played for Vancouver in the late 60’s early 70’s, who would hit you with his purse, Mr Softy!!!!!!!! He is due a new contract, his should be a bridge for sure, and at a modest raise, if any at all……………

    What is the new cap next year, anyone know????

    • Seahorse says:

      idk about the cap, lets assume no growth. this assumption that the cap will just grow every year bothers me.

      my math, via general fanager, says the rangers have 19.449 mil available this offseason, Quick back of the envelope calculation of j.t., kreider, and hayes at 4 mil per and yandle, please yandle, at 6 per leaves them with 1.449 mil.

      so i think one of those three is out for cap flexibility, in an ideal world i still think you can use kreider or hayes to move out girardi or staal, if they wave their trade clause but i think you assume they stay. trade one for a pick and prospect, sign 2 ‘stalberg/stepniak/pouliot’ types and go from there

      • Walt says:

        Won’t argue the point being made, but I’m not advocating giving the three guys contracts at $4 mil, or north of that figure…With the number of centers we have, I’d move Hayes to rid ourselves of Girardi, or Staal !!!!!!!!!!

        • BOBBY B says:

          Walt, I agree 100%, Girardi and Hayes are the 2 that we need to find new homes for next year.. Boyle we know is already out!

      • Roger Domal says:

        You’re dreaming if you think Yandle is going to accept a half million dollar raise.

        • Seahorse says:

          It’s a back of the envelope calculation. I’m not dreaming. If one of the forwards goes that 4 mil available now. It’s iterative accounting

          • Rog says:

            Yandle is making 5.5. You want to raise him to 6. Why would he take that, and why would NYR commit to more than 3 years?

            • Seahorse says:

              Did you read what I wrote. When did I say how many years they should commit. I said that it was a starting place to see what the cap situation looks like at the end of the season.

              I’m also not in ranger management so my opinion is useless and has no effect on what the team does.

              • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

                Yandle is getting at least $6 mil for 5 or 6 years. That’s the market. Why would he settle for anything less?

  2. Roger Domal says:

    He’s got 4….FOUR…goals in his last 24 games, and you are calling it a breakout season?

    His defensive lapses are those of a first year player. He goes silent in many matches.

    Yes, keep him but don’t overpay.

    • Jake says:

      Agreed. This kid is so overrated by our fanbase that i wanna laugh my ass off. Yes he has had a good year but its not like he deserves special treatment. Everyone bashes kreider but miller only has like 1 more goal and has played with better linemates. He is still a turnover machine

  3. Rob says:

    Offer 5 years for 13.5. He will take it in a heartbeat

    If Zucchini gets 4 years for 16, this a where Miller should be

  4. Jon says:

    I always liked the idea of the bridge contract. Give the kid 2 years to “show me.”
    However, if you look back at the Stepan saga, the Rangers ended up having to pay him huge money. Would it be more cost efficient to lock the player up for 4+ years at a reasonable cap hit now and not have to pay him $6+ mil in 2 years?
    The Rangers may be able to sign Miller for 4 years $12 mil. If Miller continues his path and scores 30 goals the next 2 years, he could price himself out of NY.

    • Jake says:

      Stepan was a different story. He has more responsibilies than miller. Miller isnt on the PK and not on the top PP unit. Give him a bridge deal and let him prove himself for more than 1 year

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Stepan deal was and still is such a bad one. Everyone points to Krieder as having a bad year. He has just as many goals as Stepan. The 6 million dollar man. That throws the Rangers pay for forwards out of whack.

      • Jake says:

        I agree stepan was terrible for half the season and really affected kreider IMO. HOWEVER he has been great the past 25 games

    • Walt says:

      agree 1000000000000000%, that’s why I said to pay a little more up front, to save long term !!!!!!!!!!!!

    • JoeS. says:

      Then so be it. Would if he signs and tanks? Prove it and deserve it JT

  5. Wc says:

    Follow the chicago model. They moved out a more talented player in saag rather than over pay. the rangers have overpaid staal, girardi and stephan. Continue the same way and they will be even worse shape in two-3 years time. If hayes doesnt improve next year, move him out for assets. And walt, i think zucc at 5-3 has more hits than hayes. You can be a soft player no matter your height. If kreids and hayes cant turn the corner, move them all out next year for assets before others realize this is their ceiling.

    • HARLEMBLUES says:

      Dead FcKN on or the NE Patriots. I post that 4weeks ago. Those are the models the Rangers such be following. The NHL has a hard cap. If Stepan was Russian he wouldn’t get such a pass. A season isnt 25 games. See Krieder ‘s agent will point to Stepan’s deal and want the same money. I would have traded Stepan for young asset instead of overpaying him. He wasn’t a untouchable. He’s never going to have that breakout season. He is who he is and he always gets hurt.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Harlem, I totally disagree. I do not understand all this Stepan hate. For a whole variety of reasons.

        1) Stepan is 25, barley entering his prime. He is only going to get better.

        2) He’s been one of the better centers in the league for the past two months since he’s been healthy. His two way game makes him very valuable and I’d argue irreplaceable, relative to who the Rangers have on their current roster, their minor league system, and in terms of what you’d have to pay in terms of assets and dollars to replace him.

        3) You’re blaming the guy for getting hurt? He had major oral surgery, so he couldn’t eat. He was crushed by Beleskey on a cheap shot hit. Couldn’t breathe. How is any of that his fault? If anything, he came back too soon because he’s a gamer, and because of that, he struggled. No surprise that the Rangers completely fell apart as a team when he was out. And also no surprise the Rangers play dramatically improved once he returned to form. To me, he is one of the underrated heart and soul players on this team.

        4) Since early January, when Stepan was finally healthy, he’s been an impressive 12/21. Project that out over 82 games and he’s a 27/47/74 player, right up there in the top 15 in the league.

        5) You referenced Kreider scoring more goals this season than Stepan. Seriously? He’s played in 7 more games, and has been healthy for every one of those games. And despite that, Stepan has substantially more points.

        6) Kreider is supposed to be an elite level player who was finally supposed to have his breakout season. Instead, he’s regressed. I would bet if you asked all 30 GMs to name who are the top ten underachieving players in the league relative to their skill set and what the expectations were for them, I’d bet Kreider would be on just about everyone’s list. Stepan, to me, is an overachiever not an underachiever.

        7) Your analysis of the contract situation and comparing the Rangers to the Hawks or Pats is deeply flawed. It’s easy to say goodbye to a Saad when you have elite players on your roster like Kane, Toews and Keith. It’s easy to make those decisions if your the Pats and you arguably have the greatest QB ever and greatest TE, among other stars. If you’re Gorton, you want to move on from Stepan, fine. Tell me your strategy to replace him, and still field a legit contender? It’s highly improbable you would have been able to.

        To win a SC, we absolutely need Kreider to build on his recent success. He’s a rare talent. A difference making player. No doubt. The problem is, he a passenger on the bus far too often as opposed to one of the drivers. Stepan, while not Kreider’s equal talent wise, almost always drives the bus. He can play for me any day.

        • Spozo says:

          Thanks for making sense Eddie! I love the “get rid of Stepan and get an elite center” rant that so many people love to spew. It took trading a 40 goal scorer (Gaborik) to trade for Brassard, who people also lump in to the Stepan-esque “not a #1 center” category. So they trade Stepan, who so many say is not worth the money. Then what do they do? There’s a reason why elite young centers never make it to free agency. They are the hottest commodity in the league and teams are always quick to lock up any pending free agents are their roster.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            Totally agree, Spozo.

            Obviously, I’m thrilled we got Brassard, but in addition to the way he totally jerked around Kreider (which made no sense to me given that Kreider probably saved the coach from getting fired a year earlier), I was done with Torts after watching him constantly putting Gaborik into the doghouse. He wanted to turn his best scorer into a shot blocker! Another reason why I’m sure the players decided they had enough at season’s end and wanted him out.

            I always wondered, if Gaborik hadn’t been dealt and he had gotten the chance to play in AV’s system, would that have been the difference in 2014? We will never know.

    • Alec says:

      Cap will go up 5% due to escalator clause, partially to slight rebound of $CDN and Rogers contract also has 5% escalator. Cap would then be around $74mm. Payroll already allocated is $52mm, so you have $22mm to spend on Miller, Kreider, Hayes, Yandle, McIlrath & Stalberg. On top of that you have Fast & Lindberg coming up in 2 years plus Skjei and Graves probably getting the call and Buchnevich possibly playing.

      Chicago pays their top 2 players $10mm each, forcing them to move Saad(who’s on $6mm/yr and scoring 25 goals.)

      Even with leverage you’re going to want to lock everybody under 25 to max term for 5 years and skip the bridge deal, even if the only purpose is to deal them as assets later. The team will consider themselves lucky if they get Miller & Kreider for 5yr/$20mm plus bonuses each. Hayes they can get cheaper because he frankly hasn’t done much and he has a heavily bonused contract. Undertaker might be the only one who insists on a bridge deal because AV hasn’t given him a fair shake.

      I think you can do the RFAs & Yandle for $18mm/yr total, so the roster looks something like this:
      Kreider Stepan Nash
      Miller Brassard Zuccarello
      Buchnevich Hayes Fast
      Glass Lindberg Stalberg

      McDonagh Yandle
      Skjei Klein
      Staal McIlrath

      Lundqvist
      Hellberg

      Girardi the spare.

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Interesting analysis Alec. I agree with most of this, but a few alterations.

        1) Not sure if Stalberg will be back. He may get a nice raise somewhere else. Just a hunch, he will be elsewhere. I think they will find another bargain for that 4th line.

        2) I’m surprised that you think Yandle would be back. I thought you were against re-signing him. Anyway, if the goal is to remain a contender, then I agree, signing Yandle is a priority. Assuming it is possible cap wise.

        3) I believe Girardi, with a normal off season, will rebound and will be a starter. If Yandle is resigned, then as I see it, there is no way Skjei begins the season as a starter. I think the learning curve on defense is pretty steep, so unless he’s sensational in camp, I think he takes over McIlrath’s role as the 7D. Also, I’d be concern about having four lefties. Again, the only way is if Skjei is off the charts great.

        • Alec says:

          1: Stalberg is what he is, couldn’t imagine him getting a $300 k raise, because the production isn’t there, even if he is playing well. Over 30 4th liner isn’t in that much demand.

          2: I was against re-signing Yandle, but the decline of Staal & Girardi changed things. Skjei is turning it on down in Hartford and is ready. 1g, 2a last night, is dominating and has played the right side at times when he was at Minnesota. It’s a ballsy move to go without Yandle and economically it’s the smart move if you’re looking two steps ahead; but while fortune favors the bold, job security doesn’t. Even then, I’m not giving him a raise.

          3:When the legs go, they don’t come back. Girardi is replacement level in his own zone, but is a pylon on the move.

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            Solid analysis.

            But, I doubt Yandle agrees to stay without a raise. Why would he? He’ll be in high demand on the open market.

            On Girardi, I think it depends on what we hear at the end of season postmortem. We don’t yet know the reason for the steep decline, and I still believe much of it is about injury (last season’s surgery and the knee cap this year). Declines are not always linear. We shall see.

            Good to hear about Skjei. I’ve been a fan of his potential. I still wonder if Yandle is resigned, if Skjei and/or Graves might be dealt to help restock with youth in other areas of need for further down the road. Don’t want that to happen but they might be a victim of the numbers game.

  6. JoeS. says:

    Nice write up Chris, but I’m sorry I must whole heartedly disagree. Use the bridge and let’s see if he can do it again! This is a business and you must keep costs down while you have the upper hand. you say,
    “would a 6 year $25m contract look like good value in 2 or 3 years time when Miller is peaking? It sure would.”
    How would it look if he tanks? I can see it now! If JT elides after bridge that the Rangers are not the team to stay with…well then good luck to him! Gorton will sign him to a bridge deal because that is the right thing to do!

  7. paulronty says:

    Miller is not going to tank but I wouldn’t give anyone a six year deal.I’d try to sign both Kreider & Miller for 3 years 9 million & Hayes a little over 2 mil. The Rangers definitely overpaid for Stepan, no doubt abt it. He’s a good 2 way centre but no way he’s worth 1.5 mil more than Brassard. He would have been good at 5-5.5 and no more. The Rangers need to stop screwing around with contract negotiations like they did with Callahan & Girardi. Make your best offer & if the player counters with an offer way out of line & won’t budge, move him out ASAP for a good return. As hard as it is. loyalty should never be a factor. Guys like MAC & Zucc took less so the team could keep other players which is why they are still Rangers.

    • Walt says:

      as usual, well stated, and to the point !!!!!!!!!

      If any player really wants to push the point, dump them, they aren’t really team guys……………There should be some loyalty there to the team, and your teammates !!!!!!!!!!

      • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

        Paul/Walt-

        Interesting theory.

        Paul, it’s easy to say just move guys, but you have to have willing trading partners. They did move Cally for MSL, but while it was successful, it was costly. Girardi probably would have been a similar kind of return.

        Walt, if you take your approach, it’s nice in theory, but guys want to get paid. If we just keep shipping guys out because we don’t want to pay them, then we will be in a perpetual state of rebuild.

        You’re not going to win anything doing it that way unless you draft brilliantly. As I said before, it’s a balancing act, and in some cases, you have no choice but to swallow hard and overpay.

        Paul, if they hadn’t resigned Stepan, it’s highly improbable they would have found a viable replacement and this team wouldn’t even be a playoff team, let alone flirting with another 100 point season. What would you have done instead to keep us a contender?

        • Walt says:

          I do have a choice, and that is not to over pay these clowns. What good does it do the team to have highly paid, underperforming players, who aren’t living up to the hype, and keeping us from signing quality players due to cap constraints?????????

          I’d rather see a bunch of hungry kids who want to play the game, and make names for themselves, rather than a bunch of expensive suits wearing loafers………We’ve had these discussions in the past, no mind change on my part………..How are your overpaid clowns performing, and what will they be doing in late April, teeing up a golf ball that’s what ???????????

          • Eddie!Eddie!Eddie! says:

            Then prepare to be in a perpetual state of rebuild (and to be quickly fired as a GM). Even if you want to stay away from FA, not sign veteran players, and just stay home grown, your approach means that within 3-5 years, virtually every player on the roster would probably leave for greener pastures. It would be like a college team. So we’d have these young hungry kids, they show promise, then right at the time they mature to maximize their abilities, you’d pass on them because they want to get paid what they’d be worth on the open market? Is there a franchise in pro sports that operates that way? No.

            As I’ve said all along, it’s a balancing act. You can’t do it just one way.

  8. Doug Mitchell says:

    Rangers are becoming fat cats of old. Defense doesn’t exist, coaching sucks, deserve to miss playoffs. So much talent such little effort. Shoot the fn puck

  9. amy says:

    J.T has played great on the Brass and Nash line give him what he deserves he is growing nicely