If the Rangers want to acquire their top center, they may need to part with a crucial piece.
I hate writing this article. Normally I don’t use the first person much in my articles, but I need you all to know that I hate writing this article. I have yelled at countless people this offseason that the New York Rangers would be foolish to offer J.T. Miller in a trade for a center this offseason. I was wrong.
Offering Miller is the right move under a specific set of circumstances. By no means should he be off limits, and Miller could be the piece that gets the deal done.
Let’s take a look at what could happen.
The Rangers Need a Center
As it stands today, the New York Rangers’ top three centers will be some combination of Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes, and J.T. Miller, Lias Andersson, or David Desharnais. That’s not good! Zibanejad and Hayes would be forced into more significant roles than they ever played in, while the third line center would be a winger moved to center, a teenager, or a fourth liner.
New York could wait until the Trade Deadline to make a move, but that carries the risk of having to make a Martin Hanzal-like trade.
Simply put, New York must acquire a top nine center to take the pressure off of the candidates listed above. Jeff Gorton figured out all of the other puzzle pieces. He has to find this one.
Nick Holden Won’t Cut It
While everyone would love to see the Rangers simply ship Nick Holden and a draft pick for a top six center, that’s not how things work. New York does not boast the assets to acquire a top six center without pulling talent off of their NHL roster.
Sure, the Rangers could offer up Anthony DeAngelo, but it seems unlikely. DeAngelo just joined the team, and New York’s true depth is on the wing.
Nick Holden would be the defenseman to go, but the wing is a different story. No one stands out as a clear trade candidate. However, we can rule out some wingers. Chris Kreider and Mats Zuccarello aren’t going anywhere. Pavel Buchnevich and Jimmy Vesey are far too young and valuable. Rick Nash won’t get the job done. Jesper Fast won’t interest teams enough, and Michael Grabner is only under contract for one more season.
That leaves us with J.T. Miller. Oh no.
J.T. Miller Is The Top Trade Piece
As shown above, the Rangers have plenty of depth on the wing. As it stands today, Pavel Buchnevich or Jimmy Vesey may have to start the season on the fourth line. New York needs a center badly, but owns that depth. This is how one arrives at trading J.T. Miller.
Miller will continue to be a terrific player in the NHL, but the Rangers’ needs for the present and future are for a center, not a winger. Swapping Miller in a deal for a player like Mikael Backlund would continue the youth movement, while also ensuring positions of need are filled.
Opposing teams that have terrific center depth could be enticed by Miller’s upside. He was selected by the World Cup of Hockey’s Under-23 team, so he owns a strong reputation across the NHL. Miller’s only glaring weakness is his postseason performance. That can change any season.
Miller and Holden combined should be able to get the Rangers the top six center they badly need. For the present and future, it appears it’s a move worth making.