When the Lightning made a February trade as a playoff push, the initial focus was on defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The other player acquired from the Rangers that day, center J.T. Miller, made a strong impression in three months, strong enough that the Lightning signed him Tuesday to a five-year extension worth $26.25 million.
Miller, 25, had 10 goals and eight assists in just 19 games with the Lightning, putting him among the team's top scorers as Tampa Bay earned an Atlantic Division title. He wasn't as prolific in the playoffs, scoring two goals and six assists in 17 games, but again proved himself a presence around the net.
Miller was a restricted free agent, and just Monday the team had announced a qualifying offer, which protected them with the right to match any offer sheet signed with another team. Five days before the start of free agency, they have locked him up as the team continues to work to keep its young nucleus intact after reaching the Eastern Conference final for the third time in four years.
Miller becomes the fourth-highest paid Lightning player in annual average salary, behind Steven Stamkos ($8.5 million), Victor Hedman ($7.9 million) and Ondrej Palat ($5.3 million), just ahead of Tyler Johnson ($5.0 million).