J.T. Miller is About to Get Paid

@ me

Phil Kocher

Managing Editor at Cleared for Contact
I believe in Nate Silver, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Christopher Hitchens, and hockey analytics.
Blogging between diaper changes.
@ me

Jeff Gorton has had a tremendously successful offseason. From signing Kevin Shattenkirk to the Mika Zibanejad extension, it’s rightful to heap praise in his direction. But while he’s deserving of this champagne shower, this isn’t a moment he ought to revel in for too long, because something formidable lies in wait just down the tracks. While there’s upward of an entire season ahead in which to figure it out, barring an unlikely collapse in production, J.T. Miller is about to get paid.

The now 24-year-old closed the year with a career-high 56 points in 82 games – just three shy of the team lead held by Mats Zuccarello. His 22 goals were also fourth-best for a Rangers squad that finished behind three other teams in the NHL in goals for per game played (GF/GP) at 3.09. Furthermore, Miller’s 2.50 points per 60 minutes (P/60) was also tops among all Rangers skaters with only Chris Kreider (2.49) near him. The next closest was team-leading scorer Mats Zuccarello, who was third in P/60 for the Blueshirts last season at 2.35. And all of this came from Miller at the measly price of just $2.75M against the cap. What a steal, eh?

Well, yes and no. The points-per-dollar value sure looks great in hindsight, but despite his poor career playoff performances (he has just one goal and 16 points in 40 playoff contests), it still promises to cost the Rangers more than they needed to spend should they decide to keep Miller around long-term after all.

As I warned about back in November, when Miller was leading the team in scoring through the first month of the 2016-17 season, the Rangers rather foolishly opted for a two-year bridge deal instead of offering the East Palestine, Ohio native a long-term deal in exchange for a team-friendly annual average value (AAV).

From 2014-15, when he established himself as a regular NHL player, to 2015-16, his P/GP averages have continued to increase incrementally from 0.40 to 0.52 in each season. Over that same 2014-2016 stretch in which he played the majority of his NHL games, according to Corsica.hockey, he had an aggregate 50.02 CF (Corsi-for) percentage and 50.43 FF (Fenwick-for) percentage. His P/60 (points per 60 minutes) of 2.01 trailed just behind Chris Kreider (2.12) – a then fourth-year player who the Rangers apparently did trust enough to sign to a long-term extension.

There’s no getting the toothpaste back in the tube, but with just one year left of Restricted Free Agency (RFA), anything more than a one-year extension between Miller and the Rangers will come at a premium. That’s the price the Blueshirts will pay for kicking the can down the road. There’s no changing that now because there is no changing the economic reality of his looming Unrestricted Free Agency (UFA) status in 2019.

Just as his agent Brian Barlett predicted, the Rangers decision will result in a much greater sum of money to “re-up” now that Miller’s game has progressed. Given his age and contract status, it’s not difficult to project a baseline AAV of no less than $5M given comparable contracts signed by his peers in recent years.

J.T. Miller's Comparable Contracts

This group has an average C.H% of roughly 7% and a collective AAV of $5.05M — a very healthy baseline for Barlett to set for his client. It’s quite possible Miller earns more, too. Palat, Niederreiter, and Schenn, who he most directly compares with, have an aggregate AAV of $5.21M.

This all, of course, is assuming the Rangers re-sign Miller anytime between now and somewhere around the midway point of the season. If he breaks the 60-point mark this season after scoring 56 points in the first year of his bridge deal the price tag would likely go up as a result.

The Blueshirts have just five forwards (Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello, Jesper Fast, and Pavel Buchnevich) under contract for the start of the 2018-19 season. In addition to Miller, they are also saddled with decisions to make on RFAs Kevin Hayes, Jimmy Vesey, and Matt Puempel, as well as UFAs David Desharnais, Michael Grabner, and Rick Nash. On defense, there is also Brady Skjei, who also stands to eclipse the $5M mark in his next deal, and Nick Holden, who likely won’t be a factor in any decision made.

Still, even without knowing what the salary cap ceiling will be set at for 2018 or 2019, it’s unlikely that a long-term extension for Miller would be backbreaking for the Rangers. They’ll pay a bit more than they should have had they made this call last summer, but there’s plenty of runway left for Gorton to still successfully land this plane.

Discussion
  1. I dangle him with DeAngelo and try to get a top line center. Duchene. This team is good on the wing but has nothing at center.
    Obviously I'd rather deal Hayes over Miller, but I don't think Hayes has as much value as Miller. Or am I wrong on that? Which would BSBH rather have? In the end I think it comes down to one or the other.
    I think the 1 goal in 40 playoff games gets over blown.
    He had 2 assists in 4 games getting less than 10 min as a 20 y.o.
    He had 1 goal and 7 assists in 19 games getting about 14 and a half minutes as a 21 y.o.
    3 assists in 5 games in 2 years ago.
    That's 15 points in 28 games, pretty darn good production for a young kid.
    If you want to get on him about last year that's fair, but calling all 40 playoff games a failure is not.
    DSM's point though was that despite the regular season numbers indicating that he should be a top 6 forward, he has performed absolutely horrendously in a sizable helping of playoff games, and generally disappears throughout the tough postseason games. We've flirted with another guy who gets a lot of heat for his playoff performance: Rick Nash. Do we want another Rick Nash? I certainly don't want another one, I certainly don't want to be tied to another one for multiple years, and I certainly don't want to pay another one money to perform when it's convenient for them.
    JT has 1 goal in 40 playoff games. When it matters most he's not been good enough, and that's what I care about.
    Phil in Absentia
    "barring an unlikely collapse in production,"
    Look at his progress. 0.15, 0.20, 0.40, 0.52, 0.68 P/GP over each year from 2012-13 to last season in the NHL.
    What part of this makes you think he’s going to suddenly regress?

    Which is exactly why I agree with how the front office has handled him so far. Right now he's a fringe top 6 player who definitely has the talent but has been far from consistent against opposing top 6 players in the regular season and has disappeared on the 3rd and 4th lines in the playoffs the last two years.
    With how guys are getting paid solely for stats and not as much the role they play on a team, he will get 5-6 mil from someone, but since the Rangers don't already have a consistent star forward who can elevate his type of game it's not affordable to sign 4-5 guys like Miller (especially on the wing) long term to make up for that even if it was at 4-5 mil range that we could have signed him at two years ago .
    Miller will have a chance to be a top 6 center along with Hayes this season and he will either sink or swim in that role. If he proves he can be a top 6 center with the same or greater production as last season
    he's worth the 5.5-7 mil he'll get anyway. If he has a better year at wing he gets the 5-6 mil and replaces Nash in the top 6 or he's a bigger piece to dangle in a trade.
    Future
    Well I mean if he has 12 goals and 32 points this year, he's not getting that.

    "barring an unlikely collapse in production,"
    Look at his progress. 0.15, 0.20, 0.40, 0.52, 0.68 P/GP over each year from 2012-13 to last season in the NHL.
    What part of this makes you think he’s going to suddenly regress?
    If he proves he can play center next year, then I will second guess what I'm about to say, since those types of versatile guys are valuable, but I don't need to pay J.T. Miller. He's a basket case just like Kreider is. He's been given every possible opportunity to succeed on this team and in my opinion, the best you can say about him is that he's been very good in flashes. That's not good enough for a long term commitment and I'd prefer to sell him for the package of assets he'd command while his value is high then commit to yet another decent forward. We'll see how this year goes. If he has a good year and shows he can play center I will reconsider.
    JT will definitely get paid more based on what he has done already, but how much more will depend on how successful he will be playing at center. If he proves he can play C, he will get paid more then we think, if he fails, he will not get as much as he thinks he will get. At least not from the Rangers.

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