Archive for J.T. Miller
Where do you start with the Rangers top six? If you’re grading the offense as a whole, it’s fair to say you would give the team a strong grade – probably A level.
The Rangers boast an elite (at least statistically) powerplay, they sit second in the league in goals per game (3.4/game) and have scored more goals than every team in the league (144 at time of writing). However, when you break it down, has every player played to his own individual ability?
The Rangers have been the definition of inconsistency recently, going 4-4-1, as the team noticeably took a step back after its hot start to the season. During that start the Rangers were arguably led not by Henrik Lundqvist, Rick Nash and Derek Stepan but by their kids; most notably Jimmy Vesey, Kevin Hayes and JT Miller.
What we’re seeing right now is all three players go through some growing pains, inconsistent form and quite simply stretches of games where the puck doesn’t go in for them. This isn’t time for panic however. Far from it in fact and this despite Hayes being pointless in four, Miller goalless in six and Vesey with one goal since November 13.
J.T. Miller has been a bit of a revelation for the Rangers this season. Viewed by some –including myself– as the best trade chip to try to upgrade the Rangers defense, Miller has taken this and basically shoved it back in our faces. I’ve never been happier.
Through 17 games, Miller has a line of 7-10-17, leading the team in scoring. He’s bounced between the top three lines, showing he can play anywhere in the lineup and on either wing. And he’s done all of this primarily at even strength, with just one PPG and one PPA to his stat line thus far.
The Rangers clearly need help on their blueline and have a well documented surplus of forwards up front so it stands to reason that multiple Rangers forwards would be connected to trade rumours given their uneven line-up. That doesn’t mean Jeff Gorton should be in a rush to move kids such as J.T. Miller for blueline help.
My personal feeling is that the Rangers would be making a monumental mistake if they wind up trading J.T. Miller, almost regardless of the return he brings. Miller’s development curve has been trending upwards for a long time now. Miller is still young, has good speed and size, a cap friendly contract and is a home-grown, cost controlled asset with yet more upside. All of these merits and yet we haven’t mentioned Miller can play all over the line up and in every different scenario. You don’t trade that kind of player.
The Rangers are in an interesting position. They have a pretty big logjam at forward, one that even exists while two forwards are out with injuries. If and when both Pavel Buchnevich and Oscar Lindberg return, two forwards will need to be out of the lineup. This is a magnificent problem to have.
On the other side of the coin, the Rangers have a blue line that is likely one of the bottom-ten in the league. The biggest hole is at 1RD, where the Rangers have no real options. Dan Girardi isn’t an option there anymore. Kevin Klein struggled in the role last season. Adam Clendening isn’t a top pairing defenseman. Nick Holden is a lefty. Dylan McIlrath….yea not opening that can of worms.
Last week, I went through the bottom half of the New York Rangers 2016 Top 25 Under 25. The bottom half had a lot of turnover, as the 2016 draft was an early success for the Rangers that warranted some shifting in the rankings. Couple that with four players who were ranked last year that are no longer with the organization, and you have a refreshed system that is something to get excited about.
Let’s remember that there are a good number of players on the NHL roster that are under 25 years old, so the top half of this list is mostly populated with them. There was a shift in the rankings for some of these kids though, as we’ve learned what each one is capable of in the lineup.
Full disclosure: this is pure speculation, but did the Rangers prioritise J.T. Miller when dealing with their own Free Agents? The Rangers wrapped up the Miller situation on Wednesday, agreeing to a new two year bridge deal with a cap hit of 2.65m per year. It’s clearly a prove yourself deal, which goes against the recent league wide trend of committing long term to younger players and is a deal that has frustrated a lot of the Rangers fanbase.
I personally have no problem with a bridge deal. Its already good value for the team, if Miller breaks out in a big way it’s a bargain, and in two years time Miller may indeed get a bigger deal but he’ll also get tied up for a lot longer. Rick Nash, Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and Tanner Glass (at a minimum) are highly unlikely to be Rangers in two years time. That’s a lot of money coming off the books. Retaining Miller shouldn’t be a problem unless he becomes a 60 goal scorer and demands max terms. But I digress…
The Rangers have re-signed their first major RFA, coming to terms with J.T. Miller on a two-year bridge deal. The 23-year-old winger will get $2.5 million next season and $2.75 million in 2017-2018, for a total cap hit of $2.65 million over the life of the deal.
I’m not the biggest fan of bridge deals for someone like Miller, since it paints the Rangers into a corner when it comes to buying out UFA years, like it did with Carl Hagelin. However you can’t be upset with the “right now” value. Miller comes in as a bargain given his production.
Miller will look to improve upon his first full year in the NHL, where he put up 22-21-43 in 82 games. He bounced between the second and third lines last season, but it is likely he has found his spot in the top-six going forward.
They say it takes five years to really judge a draft class in hockey. Very few players come in and play in the NHL immediately following their draft year. Heck, it’s usually two or three years before a draft pick even turns pro. Factor in another year or two in the minors, and you have a four or five year waiting period before some rookies even get a chance to play regularly in The Show.
If a team gets one NHL regular in a draft, it’s considered a successful draft. If they can land a second player, it’s a big win. For the Rangers, 2011 was the final time they would draft in the top-fifteen through today. They took J.T. Miller with that first round pick, their one consistent NHL player. The rest of the draft features Steven Fogarty, who just turned pro, and four mid-to-late round picks.
In addition to Henrik Lundqvist being tapped for Team Sweden yesterday, four other Rangers made the preliminary rosters for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. As expected, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh made Team USA, and Mats Zuccarello was added to Team Europe. J.T. Miller was the surprise, being selected for the U24 (23 and under) team.
I was a little surprised that Rick Nash wasn’t pegged for Team Canada. He may still get added to the roster when they are finalized.