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Rangers Sign Miller to Two-Yr Bridge Deal, Saves Cap Room, But Shortsighted

July 13, 2016, 4:51 PM ET [542 Comments]
Jan Levine
New York Rangers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
J.T. Miller, who was a restricted free agent and scheduled for an arbitration hearing on August 2, reached an agreement with the Rangers on a two-year deal. Per his agent, Scott Bartlett, @scgscott, Miller received a $2.5 mil base + $250k signing bonus for 2016-17 with a $2.75M base in 2017-18, so the cap hit for each year is $2.75 mil (this is updated info, as originally it was reported that it was a $2.625 mil cap hit per year). That's a healthy raise over the $874k he made last year when he only signed a one-year deal betting on himself to earn a bigger deal this year, which clearly he did.

This was my prediction on what Miller might get that I posted last week and yesterday, so the two years came in slightly less than I postulated:

Miller, 23, bet on himself last year, opting for a one-year deal at the 874k minimum. That bet played out well, as he had his best season as pro - and his first full one with the Rangers - tallying 22 goals and 21 assists in 82 games. I had predicted last week that Miller will triple his salary on a one-year deal to about $2.5-2.6 mil. A two-year deal would probably be close to $3 mil a year and a 4-5 year deal would be in the $4-$4.25 mil range.

It's great that Miller is locked up, but one again the Rangers went short-term rather than thinking bolder, meaning longer. I know many think that since Miller produced just for one-year, a short-term bridge deal is the way to go. But thinking bolder and longer was a wiser course of action. Believing and placing faith on a young player, who quite likely is just scratching the surface of his talent level and production, would have made an incredible amount of sense. Instead, in two years, New York will be right back in this space and probably forced to sign him at a much higher amount, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent one year after this bridge deal expires.

The only time the Rangers acted boldly and brightly was with Ryan McDonagh, who was locked him for six years at $4.7 mil per year. More times than not, New York opts for the bridge deal. Part of that may be due to cap constraints, though some of it may be due to shortsighted management, who refuses to realize that locking up a possible core player early and at a reasonable price saves the team on the back end of the deal. Carolina did this with Victor Rask (six years at $4 mil per) and Florida similar with Vincent Trochek (six years, $4.75 mil AAV) and Reilly Smith (five years at $5 mil AAV). Instead, once again, the bridge route was taken, frustrating many of us, including yours truly.

With Miller locked up, New York still has arbitration dates set with Dylan McIlrath - July 21, Chris Kreider - July 22 and Kevin Hayes - July 27. With Miller signing, the Rangers have $9.8M in cap space (10F/7D/2G) to partially use amongst those three. Knowing how the team operates, I expect McIlrath and Hayes signed but Kreider will be the most problematic and could end up going through arbitration. In addition, he is rumored to possibly be on the block, as the team looks to rebuild and retool.
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