The Tampa Bay Lightning season is over. With a long summer ahead of us, we’re going to hand out grades to each player on the roster. You did your part submitting your grades via the reader survey, and they are presented along with our writers’ grades. All told, about 360 of you submitted grades, which is less than last season, but that’s understandable considering how the season went. Follow along with the series through the month of May and share your thoughts in the comments.
J.T. Miller was part of the big trade at the 2018 Deadline between the Lightning and the New York Rangers. The Rangers had just started a rebuild and were trying to trade away their leaders in exchange to some prospects or draft picks. And on the other hand, the Bolts needed to add some experienced players to be ready for a deep playoff run.
This was his first full season with the Lightning and he needed to adapt to a new role. Previously, on the Rangers, he played usually as a top-6 player, spending most of his time on the second line. Even though he started this season on the first line with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat, Miller been dropped later to the third line and even played some games as a fourth-liner, occasionally returning to the top line when some players were absent due to injuries. That resulted in a slight decrease of his TOI compared to his last season for the Rangers. As a Ranger, he has averaged 16-17 minutes over the last two seasons before his trade. This season his average TOI was 14:40.
The writers were very consentient on J.T. Miller, giving him mostly a C grade. The community had many different opinions about him, but as you can see from the chart below, the readers agreed on C+ grade. I also gave him a C, but now looking at his stats closer i have to admit that he probably deserves a B- or even a B grade.
He is graded very well in WAR. In fact, it’s his most impactful season in his career. In the following chart from Evolving Hockey you can see how big step forward he has made in almost every category.
Miller and some of his most common linemates Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn were solid defensively. He can provide some size (115 hits over the 2018-19 season) and is pretty good at takeaways. After the trade deadline last year, I’ve heard the opinion that one of the reasons why the Lightning have acquired him is his faceoff percentage. But comparing to some recent seasons, his percentage has fallen down to 49,4%.
With such players as Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman and Brayden Point, it’s pretty obvious that he isn’t going to get a chance to play on the first power play unit, but he feels quiet comfortable on the second one. He ranked fifth on the team in power play TOI, trailing only to the players mentioned in the previous sentence.
He doesn’t score a lot of points. He has never scored more than 56 points in a season over his career, but that’s also not his role at the Lightning.
The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed Miller last summer to a five-year $5.25 million AAV deal. His no-trade clause kicks in on a July 1. According to Cap Friendly, he will have an 8 team no trade list, so that limits the front office’s flexibility.
Miller has been effective but it’s probably not the best thing to have players with 5 million salaries on the third line. Among players like Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn, he’s probably the most attractive to other teams. He’s still 26 years old and can play all over the lineup. He can be also used as a part of a deal to move Ryan Callahan.
If the Tampa Bay Lightning are willing to trade him, there are players like Alex Volkov, Alex Barré-Boulet, Taylor Raddysh who can potentially take his spot. What happens with Miller this summer is probably one of the things that depends on how much Brayden Point gets on his new contract. If Point pushes for maximum value and the team has trouble moving Callahan, trading Miller could become a realistic option. But if the front office can figure out how to navigate those challenges, he could easily return as forward depth again next season.
In my opinion, the Tampa Bay Lightning have in J.T. Miller a player who isn’t recording a lot of points, but is very steady defensively and impactful as a play driver at 5v5. He can provide his team a lot of depth and flexibility and he’s able to fill in a hole on every line.