Rested K'Andre Miller ready to continue breakout season as Rangers enter final stretch
EDMONTON, Alberta — K’Andre Miller is feeling good these days, he said, and is ready to do big things down the stretch for the Rangers.
“My body feels great, personally,’’ he said Friday morning before the Rangers faced the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place. “I took time off over the All-Star break and just kind of got a hard reset on my body. I’m feeling good, feeling rested and feeling recovered.’’
Miller, who scored the winning goal Wednesday in the Rangers’ 6-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks, entered Friday night’s game with six goals and a career-high 30 points through 54 games.
“I think for the most part, the game’s kind of just coming a little bit more natural this year than maybe years past,’’ he said. “Things are clicking offensively, defensively, and I feel like I’m honing in pretty good and pretty dialed in.’’
While the Rangers would love to have Miller — a third-year player who was the 22nd overall pick in the 2018 draft — continue to have a breakout year, his success will make general manager Chris Drury’s life a little more complicated in the summer.
Miller will be a restricted free agent after the season, as will Filip Chytil (who has arbitration rights) and Alexis Lafreniere. Drury will have to find a way to re-sign those three, plus three or four more forwards, one defenseman and a backup goalie, while fitting them under the NHL’s $83.5 million salary cap.
According to CapFriendly (an independent compiler of contract information for the NHL), Drury will have about $16 million to sign all those players.
Based on comparables, Miller and Chytil both figure to be in line for deals with annual average salaries in the range of $4 million to $5 million. That won’t leave much money for everyone else, but that’s not Miller’s problem.
“Personally, I don’t really think about it too much,’’ he said. “Obviously, I knew it was a contract year going into this year, but I don’t think it’s really crept into my game really too much at all. I’m just trying to stay in the moment and control what I can control day by day and just set myself up for the end of the year.’’
The 23-year-old defenseman, who is 6-5, 215, with a long reach, a big shot and exceptional skating ability, has impressed the coaches enough to earn an average ice time of 22:13 this season. Only fellow defenseman Adam Fox (24:54) averages more for the Rangers.
Coach Gerard Gallant put Miller at the point of the second power-play unit this season, and even when he retooled the unit last week to add newly acquired sniper Vladimir Tarasenko, he kept Miller in the same spot, preferring him over Jacob Trouba.
“He gets the puck through [traffic],’’ Gallant said. “He shoots the puck. Like the other night [in Vancouver], he scored a five-on-five goal on a good wrist shot. He found a way to get it through. So when you get pucks through from the top, that’s really important for your power play also.’’
Miller said being put on the power play has helped him develop the offensive part of his game even more.
“Offensively, I get to shoot the puck a little bit more,’’ he said. “I get a little bit more O-zone time and get the feel for the puck a little bit more. I think our power-play unit specifically has been doing a good job of just keeping it simple and realizing that we’re not going to have the minute-and-a-half, minute out there. We’re just trying to do what we can within the time range we have.’’