The NHL Trade Deadline is less than a week away and the waters are eerily quiet. Seriously, when was the last time the weeks leading up to the trade deadline have been this, well, sane? No insane rumors flying around, no trade demands and no huge pieces on the block, really.
Maybe it's because Evander Kane (the biggest splash) and Mike Santorelli (the fancy stat hero) were already traded but still, it's quiet. Too quiet.
The New York Rangers are very clearly buyers this deadline, although what it is they're buying is up for debate. Not all teams need a huge move at the deadline to feel like they've won the day; and to be honest, that's exactly how the Rangers should feel.
The Rangers main targets should be a depth bottom-six winger and a depth defenseman. In a perfect world I'd want the Rangers to nab Andrej Sekera and Sean Bergenheim or Daniel Winnik. Nothing flashy -- although at this point Sekera is becoming flashy -- and nothing crazy. And to be honest, I'd rather the depth forward than the depth defenseman. I really think John Moore has come on of late, and I'm more comfortable with using him than shipping out a too-expensive package to Caroline for Sekera.
I've talked about this before, but I want no part in Antoine Vermette. Well, not that I don't think he would fit, but I don't want the package associated with getting him. He's not worth it.
The fear here is J.T. Miller is going to be the bait dangled in front of a team like the Coyotes for Vermette. It would be a massive mistake, there's just no sugarcoating it.
The fact it's taken Miller this long in the season to actually see some true playing time is already illogical. And even now that Miller is in the everyday lineup -- we'll see what happens when Jesper Fast returns -- he's still not getting a hard look. Roughly 10 minutes a night, not much power play time and not much crunch time at all.
The funny part is Miller has been good. And not just good, but really good. Along with Kevin Hayes and Carl Hagelin the Rangers' third line has become what last year's third line was -- a responsible defensive line who can control possession and score some goals. Miller is a big part of that, and he's only getting better.
An article came out yesterday from the Players' Tribune by Igor Larionov about how he believes the NHL is stifling creativity at the junior level. He talked about how coaches at that level are former grinders or enforcers who want the game to be played the way they did. He also mentions how coaches dislike the East-West European style, and punish players for turnovers and mistakes made when they're trying to be creative in the offensive zone. Any of this sound familiar?
Some younger players -- mainly Hayes and Chris Kreider -- seem to have gotten a pass for their mistakes while trying to make something happen in the offensive zone. That's how it's supposed to work, especially at a developmental stage in a player's career. While others -- Miller and even John Moore -- have been punished for the same reasons.
Earlier in the year Alain Vigneault admitted that he's giving some players a longer leash than others. The point was directed towards Tanner Glass' continuous role on the team despite countless mistakes but it applies to players like Miller as well. And since Miller has had a tough time earning Vigneault's trust, and because other teams are smartly interested in him, it seems like he might be the guy the Rangers would use if they did go after a Vermette or someone else who needs a more substantial package.
That would be a mistake. Miller has true scoring skill, a physical edge that's deemed so important and he can actually, you know, play hockey. He doesn't just fit on the third line, he's good on the power play and can make things happen. And he's just 21-year-old, cheaper than anyone else the Rangers are going to bring in and has a higher ceiling, too.
Yes, he's going to make mistakes. But he's also going to learn from those mistakes and get better. If he doesn't then you can address moving him for the right return.
But he hasn't gotten a fair shake yet; and if the team trades him before he does get an opportunity to prove himself then it's a massive mistake.
And now isn't the time to make those types of mistakes.