JT MIller

Looking to make the leap: J.T. Miller

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“J.T. has to figure it out and hopefully he will. When he does, we’re going to have a good player. If he doesn’t, he will be a good minor league player.

“He just hasn’t earned the right to be at this level on a regular basis. He needs to show more commitment on the ice and off. Until he does that, he hasn’t earned the right.”

That was Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault this past April in the wake of Miller’s sixth demotion to AHL Hartford. Miller, New York’s first-round pick (15th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, had a tough time winning over Vigneault last season (obviously) and showed signs of regression, scoring just three goals in 30 games in his second year with the Blueshirts.

Which brings us to the present — or, as Miller and the Rangers might refer to it, crunch time.

Heading into the final of his three-year, entry-level deal, Miller is at something of an organizational crossroads. Both he and the club want him established as a full-time NHLer, yet both seem to recognize there are only so many kicks at the can.

“I think we made it pretty clear to [Miller] when he left where he stands and the opportunity in front of him. You only get so many chances,” Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton told NHL.com. “I think J.T. is a pretty proud guy and a confident kid. I think he’s encouraged there’s a chance for him in the lineup. We’re all looking forward to how he comes back, but it’s all up to him.”

One positive for Miller is New York’s thinned-out depth up front, specifically at center. Brian Boyle and Brad Richards are no longer in the mix and that could provide Miller the opportunity to man the middle and utilize his playmaking skills — remember, the former OHL Plymouth standout was a good setup man for the U.S. gold medal-winning squad at the ’13 World Juniors, leading the team with seven assists in seven games.

(Miller, who’s played a bunch of left wing, could also benefit from Benoit Pouliot’s departure to Edmonton.)

One negative for Miller, though, is how New York addressed those departures. The Rangers built forward depth through a number of low-cost veteran signings — Lee Stempniak, Tanner Glass, Chris Mueller, Matthew Lombardi — which makes for crowded competition. What’s more, Miller must keep an eye on another pair of prospects that have made positive impressions on the organization: Jesper Fast and Danny Kristo, the latter of who inked a one-year extension with the Rangers on Tuesday.

The wildcard in all this? Vigneault. He forged a reputation in Vancouver as a coach that prefers experienced, veteran guys that make “high-percentage plays” rather than younger players still figuring things out. He’s also put players on blast before, notably Pouliot — AV actually used the “kicks at the can” line to roast him last November.

“I’ve had this conversation with Ben, I’ve had this conversation with a few players in my career. You only get so many kicks at the can here, you only get so many teams,” Vigneault told The Bergen Record. “Obviously a guy like Ben, a high pick, a high skill level, you see it now and then and you go, ‘Wow, why does the inconsistency or whatever is, not there on a more regular basis?”

While the “only get so many teams” thing doesn’t apply to Miller, the “high pick, high skill level” thing sure does. In light of that, it’ll be interesting to see if Miller responds the same way Pouliot did — after getting called out by Vigneault, the 27-year-old scored 32 points over the final 53 games of the year, potted another 10 in 25 playoff games and then scored a mega five-year, $20 million contract from Edmonton.

Seidenberg, without a contract, playing a key role for Team Europe

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 08:  Dennis Seidenberg #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against Mason Raymond #21 of the Vancouver Canucks during Game Four of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on June 8, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Dennis Seidenberg has been a key player for Team Europe at the World Cup, and he doesn’t even have an NHL contract.

Seidenberg, 35, logged 23:30 in Europe’s 3-2 overtime upset of Sweden on Sunday. Only Roman Josi (29:00) played more for the winning side. Seidenberg even played more than his old Boston teammate, Zdeno Chara (22:26).

“I’ve played quite a bit,” Seidenberg said earlier in the tournament, per the Associated Press. “People should know what I can do and can’t do by now, but nonetheless this is an important tournament for me.”

A Stanley Cup champion in 2011, Seidenberg became an unrestricted free agent when he was bought out by the Bruins over the summer. At first, the decision shocked him, but the shock eventually passed. So far, he’s been holding out for a guaranteed contract, as opposed to a tryout.

The Ottawa Senators are reportedly a potential landing spot.

Seidenberg may not be a full-time, top-four defenseman anymore, but he should still be able to hold down a bottom-pairing role, with the ability to log top-four minutes if there’s an injury.

He’ll get another good look from the scouts on Tuesday when Team Europe opens its best-of-three series with the heavy favorites from Canada. He’s not the only UFA blue-liner on his team, as 34-year-old Christian Ehrhoff is also playing a role, albeit a smaller one.

Cashing in: Marchand inks eight-year, $49M extension in Boston

Brad Marchand
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This summer, we wondered what Brad Marchand’s next contract might look like.

Now we know.

Per Sportsnet, the Bruins have inked the talented, agitating winger to a hefty eight-year, $49 million contract extension — one that carries an average annual cap hit of $6.125 million per season.

This news comes with Marchand heading into the final year of his current deal, a four-year, $18 million pact with a $4.5M AAV — so it’s a pretty nice pay bump.

This extension will also make Marchand the club’s third highest-paid forward, behind David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, and will keep him in the black and gold through 2025.

Earlier reports suggested Marchand’s initial ask was for $49 million over seven years.

That the B’s were willing to tack on an extra year of term wasn’t surprising, especially in light of what GM Don Sweeney told WEEI earlier this summer.

“I’ve identified March as a core guy, and we want to continue down that path,” Sweeney said. “It always takes two sides to make a deal, and I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be arguably his whole career.”

Coming off a year in which he finished sixth in the NHL in goals, with 37, Marchand has only upped his value in recent weeks with a terrific effort for Team Canada at the World Cup.

The 28-year-old has starred on a line alongside Bergeron and Sidney Crosby, sitting second on the team in scoring with three goals and five points through four games. He also sits second on the team in shots on goal, with 17.

Though his reputation is somewhat checkered and his disciplinary rap sheet is a mile long, Marchand has done plenty in trying to shed that label. He’s morphed into one of the better snipers in the league, and his presence on the Canadian national team will only further help erase perceptions he’s primarily an agitator.

This contract will help, too.

After failing physical, Grabovski placed on IR

New York Islanders v Philadelphia Flyers
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Mikhail Grabovski won’t be suiting up for the Islanders anytime soon.

Grabovski, absent from Isles camp after failing to pass his physical, has been placed on IR with an upper-body injury, a byproduct of concussion symptoms he’s suffered since last season.

The 32-year-old hasn’t suited up since Mar. 15, when he returned from a 10-game absence to play 17 minutes in a shootout loss to Pittsburgh.

At the time, the Isles were happy to have Grabovski back in the lineup, but the feeling was fleeting. Immediately after the Pittsburgh game, the club sent Grabovski back to New York for medical evaluation.

He didn’t play another game that year, or in the club’s playoff run.

In the midst of a four-year, $20 million deal — set to expire in 2018 — it’s possible Grabovski will be placed on LTIR, in order to give the club financial relief from his $5 million cap hit.

The Isles are pretty tight to the cap ceiling with Grabovski on the books, approximately $2.5M under (per General Fanager).

‘We are who we are’ — Stars stay committed to ‘high-octane’ hockey

Dallas Stars center Tyler Seguin (91) celebrates scoring a goal with teammate left wing Jamie Benn (14) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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The Dallas Stars had the best offense in the NHL last season, but only the 19th-best goals-against. It was a combination that made them arguably the most exciting team to watch, but also one that ended with a second-round defeat to the St. Louis Blues.

In the Stars’ four losses to the Blues, they surrendered 20 goals combined. When it was over, much of the blame was assigned to their two goalies, and by extension to their general manager.

Just don’t expect the Stars to dramatically change their ways in 2016-17. They are who they are, and they don’t want to be anything else.

“Everybody is raving about Team North America (at the World Cup), and that’s the way we play hockey,” GM Jim Nill said, per the Dallas Morning News. “We are who we are, and we don’t want to get away from that. We’re a high-end, high-octane type of team. That’s how we’re built.”

That being said, head coach Lindy Ruff is still aiming “to take 10 percent off that goals against,” which would put the Stars’ goals-against around No. 10 in the league.

After all, even the high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins, not exactly known for playing lock-it-down hockey, found a way to put up good defensive numbers on their way to winning it all.

“As I’ve said to them all along, I know our team is going to score goals,” said the winning head coach, Mike Sullivan. “In order to win championships, you got to keep it out of your net. You have to become a team that is stingy defensively. Everybody has to buy in to that idea for us to get to where we want to go. To their credit, they did, down to a man.”

Related: Team North America was fun