Rangers face former player who is now a star in Vancouver
Over the last few years, the Rangers have moved a lot of key players from the lineup. We aren’t talking about players like Nick Holden or Matt Puempel, no we have some big names gone since the letter went out to rebuild.
Key Players Gone
In the 2016-2017 season, the Rangers traded or let go the likes of Keith Yandle, Derrick Brassard, and Eric Staal. Then the 2017-18 season brought an even bigger overhaul. Starting before the draft the Rangers bought out Dan Girardi, and traded a ton of players. Big names like Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, and Michael Grabner were sent packing. Last season Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes were moved and this deadline looks like it could be Chris Kreider’s last with the team.
However, when you look at all these names the one I left out is the one player that will likely haunt the Rangers for years to come. Tonight the Rangers will face-off against J.T. Miller in Vancouver and many will look at their screens and wonder what could’ve been.
Full disclosure, I am an unabashed fan of every aspect of J.T. Miller’s game. The 26 year old winger has all the tools you can ask for in a player. He has size at 6’1″ and 218 lbs, plus he uses it well in the corners and in front. Miller has decent speed, which coupled with his on ice vision makes him an excellent playmaker.
After being traded to Tampa, he scored 18 points in 19 games and found himself playing with Steven Stamkos. He didn’t look out of place. Unfortunately for Tampa, they had to move players due to cap issues and will likely join the Rangers in regretting letting him go.
Vancouver acquired Miller for goalie Marek Mazanec, a 3rd round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional first-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft this past June. When they got him, Travis Green immediately envisioned him on a line with Elias Pettersson.
Rangers Saw the Potential
Entering his prime years, Miller seems to have put it all together and is set to record career highs in goals, assists, and points. Through 41 games this season he has 40 points. He is 2nd on the team in scoring, 3 points behind Pettersson.
Miller had loads of talent and shame on Alain Vigneault and the Rangers to get a glimpse of that in 2015 and failing to nurture it. In the conference finals against Tampa that season, the Rangers struggling for offense put Miller on a unit with Rick Nash and Derrick Brassard and the line combined for 13 points to force a game 7.
The following season, Miller notched 56 points in 82 games and looked well on his way to being one of the Rangers top 6 forwards for years to come. Sadly Miller was traded in 2018 with McDonagh at the deadline due to cap concerns as he was set to earn a new deal.
Haunting the Rangers For Years
JT Miller was signed by TB until 2023 with a nice contract of 5.25M AAV before dealing him. Where would the Rangers be if they could have retained him when they traded McDonagh? Just imagine Miller in the top 6 with that contract. No matter what, Miller now seems to be a top offensive player for Vancouver. As he continues to get better, Miller will remain a nightmare for Rangers fans that like to look back at the “what ifs” in sports.
NYR PRE GAME NOTES:
- All-Time v Van: 81-34-8-1 (43-15-5-1 at home; 38-19-3-0 on the road)
- Today’s game is the second of two meetings between the Rangers and Canucks, and the only meeting between the two teams at Vancouver. The Rangers have posted a 0-1-0 record (0-1-0 at home; 0-0-0 on the road), following the Canucks’ 3-2 win on Oct. 20 at MSG. Jesper Fast tallied two points (one goal, one assist) in the contest, and Henrik Lundqvist made 40 saves. The Rangers registered 40 shots on goal in the game, including 17 shots on goal in the third period.
- J.T. Miller played parts of six seasons with the Rangers (2012-13 – 2017-18) and helped the Blueshirts advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2013-14.
- Canucks Assistant Coach Manny Malhotra played parts of four seasons with the Rangers (1998-99 – 2001-02).
- Kaapo Kakko was selected in the first round (second overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, which was held in Vancouver.
- Mika Zibanejad – 13 GP, 5-7-12 – Zibanejad has registered 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in his last 10 contests against the Canucks, including six points (two goals, four assists) in seven games against Vancouver as a member of the Rangers.
- Artemi Panarin – 11 GP, 2-8-10 – Panarin has tallied a point in each of his last five games against the Canucks (one goal, seven assists), and he registered four assists on Mar. 31, 2018 at Vancouver as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Notes courtesy NYR