Rangers: New contract will force K’Andre Miller to play with lofty expectations in 2023

New York Rangers defenseman K'Andre Miller (79) takes a shot against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Madison Square Garden
Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers recently re-signed defenseman K’Andre Miller to a two-year extension worth $3.872 AAV. While being pretty strapped for cash this offseason, the Rangers had no choice but to offer a short-term bridge deal rather than a long-term contract. This offers a perfect opportunity for both Miller and the organization, who will now have two seasons to prove his worth to the Rangers while the team gets to watch him grow at a reduced salary.

K’Andre Miller needs to prove himself on special teams

Miller is currently slotted on the second penalty kill unit for the Rangers, a line that was somewhat mediocre for the Rangers in the 2022-2023 season. Throughout the course of the regular season, the Rangers’ penalty kill ranked 13th in the NHL; not a devastating ranking, but also one that leaves the team with plenty of room for improvement. Chances are Miller won’t be able to replace either Ryan Lindgren or Adam Fox on the first PK unit, but he will need to do everything he can to bolster that second unit.

The projected line for the second penalty kill consists of Nick Bonino, Barclay Goodrow, Jacob Trouba, and Miller. This line has the potential to excel defensively with the addition of Bonino, but its success will come down to how well Miller performs. He has always been a very offensive-minded defenseman, and it’s essential that he removes those traits when playing shorthanded.

Miller may also get an opportunity to participate in the power play as well. In recent years, Fox has acted as the defensive quarterback on the first power play, and Trouba on the second. Fox is justified in owning that role, but fans have always questioned Trouba’s presence. He has very little offensive ability, focusing solely on defense and checking.

With Peter Laviolette stepping into the spotlight as head coach, there’s a chance he could make this long-awaited swap and place Miller on the power play, as he has the ability to contribute offensively on top of his defensive abilities.

Helping the Rangers in the offensive zone

Offensive contributions have always been a strong suit for Miller throughout his career. Despite being a defenseman, Miller still ranked seventh on the Rangers in point totals last season with 43 points in 79 games played. That total ranked higher than both Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere.

While the offense isn’t the first priority of a defenseman, having the ability to contribute on that end is something that helps the team tremendously. The best way for Miller to prove himself and make the most of this bridge deal will be to continue producing points on top of keeping the puck out of the Rangers’ net too. With what he’s demonstrated in the past, Miller should easily be able to achieve that feat.