The Rangers signed defenseman and restricted free agent K’Andre Miller for two years,$7.744 million. But it only delays what is surely to be a long-term agreement between the two sides down the road.
The key will fit the lock for another two years.
The New York Rangers have locked up defenseman K’Andre Miller for another two years with a $3.872 million cap hit. It’s a team-friendly deal, albeit a bridge contract. Due to salary cap constraints, the Rangers didn’t have a choice. They had $6 million remaining in cap space after their free agent splurge. But they also needed to leave money for Alexis Lafreniere’s impending pact. Miller understood and put pen to paper.
Miller’s short-term contracts spell a long-term problem:
The contract means the Rangers’ best two left defensemen are signed for a combined $6.872 million, with Ryan Lindgren being the other. Both bring varying styles of play to the backend. Lindgren brings tenacity, and Miller brings facilitation. It will be interesting to see what Peter Laviolette and his staff do with the defensive pairings. The veteran coach’s fast-paced style of play means they’ll need versatile defensemen like Zac Jones to step up. Jones has worked hard for his chance right there in front of him. The 22-year-old agreed to a 2X$812K AAV deal earlier this offseason. It’s a one-way deal, meaning he can’t return to Hartford unless it’s through waivers.
But if he can’t rise to the occasion, several others are ready to pounce. There’s Erik Gustafsson,31, who the Blueshirts signed for $825K two weeks ago. He will surely be on Jones’s heels from day one of training camp. Ben Harpur, 28, also appeared in 42 games on Broadway last season and will begin this year in the AHL. Behind him are free-agent pickups Mac Hollowell and Connor Mackey.
Under Laviolette, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Miller paired with Fox while Lindgren skates next to Trouba. Yes, captain Trouba can do more than throw big hits. It’s important to note he had 30 points in 82 games last season playing with Miller, an offensive defenseman. Now imagine if it was Lindgren instead. The move would also allow Miller’s talents to flourish.
Despite not receiving much power play time, the 23-year-old still posted career-highs in goals(9, assists (34), points (43), takeaways (61), blocks (105), hits (162), and average ice time (21:57). The 6-5, 210-pound defender is only getting better and has many years ahead of him. That’s why it was understandable if he wouldn’t budge from wanting a long-term deal. But it’s easy to see his point of view, having agreed to this contract.
He and other players around the league have signed for less money and term due to the belief that the salary cap will go up soon.
Looking ahead, the Rangers need to pay Lindgren too. The 25-year-old is a restricted free agent next Summer and has outplayed his current $3 million salary. He deserves increased pay and a long-term contract. But would it be worth it for the Rangers to give in?
Lindgren’s aggression has also brought a myriad of injuries. It’s why he’s never played a full regular season. As he ages, you’d expect the theme to continue. He’s the Rangers’ most valuable defenseman, so expect him to stay. However, once that’s settled, it’s back to Miller time. New York retaining Miller then and now is a no-brainer. This bridge deal feels more like a missed opportunity than a victory. The Rangers have only delayed the inevitable long-term commitment they’ll have to make to their 2018 first-round pick (22nd overall). But as the saying goes, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”