What J.T. Miller’s new contract means for the Rangers and Kevin Hayes

USA Today

USA Today

Yesterday, former New York Ranger and current Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Miller has been signed to a five-year contract with an annual value of $5.25 million dollars.

When Miller was a Ranger, he spent a lot of his time being Kevin Hayes’ linemate. Even under the strict rule of Alain Vigneault, Miller and Hayes remained together. They even swapped positions while on the same line. Sometimes Miller played center, sometimes Hayes played center, and sometimes, both played wing. However, one thing remained the same; the two were made for each other. They had very similar styles of play, had high chemistry, and produced very similar numbers. However, Miller always seemed to perform better, scoring more points, creating more plays and was more aggressive and energetic with the puck. So even when Miller plays a top-line role and scores more points than Hayes, should Hayes be asking for the $5.5 million dollars his former linemate received?

The answer is no. Like it or not, Kevin Hayes does not deserve a near six million dollar contract. Four million dollars? Absolutely. Five million? Maybe, but that’s pushing it. Six? Absolutely not.

Some can make the argument that he does deserve the contract because we have no better options at center. However, the reality here is that the Rangers are simply not a good team right now. The rebuild is still on, and it’s not complete.

Another point is that if the Rangers want to make a big free agent splash next year by going after the likes of Artemi Panarin, Erik Karlsson, Blake Wheeler, or Drew Doughty, to name a few, they can’t go wasting their money on second-line centers who’ve never scored more than 50 points in his four-year career.

Undoubtedly, this Miller contract will have its effect on the contracts of forward RFAs. But most notably, it may decide whether or not Kevin Hayes is a Ranger come October.