62
Photo Credit: © Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Laying the odds on 15 NHL teams’ chances at landing J.T. Miller for next season

It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to know that the Vancouver Canucks are exploring a trade of J.T. Miller to the highest bidder.

Oh sure, Jim Rutherford and Co. will say that the goal is to re-sign Miller, but then he’ll mention cap space and how the Canucks need to set an upper limit on what they offer the star forward. That suggests they’ll be offering Miller less than he’s worth on the open market, which suggests that he’ll test said open market, which suggests that the smart money is on the Canucks dealing him away before that can happen.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

And, look, we know you’re all sick of seeing speculation about a potential Miller trade, but we hope you’ll indulge us at least one more time, because speaking of “smart money,” you very well could make some cold, hard cash by reading this article.

That’s right, a Miller trade is such a foregone conclusion at this point that oddsmakers are taking bets on it.

So, we decided to play oddsmaker ourselves and lay down some numbers on the teams that Miller is most likely to find himself playing for in the 2022/23 NHL season, based on some key factors.

Boston Bruins

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Even if Patrice Bergeron sticks around for another season, the Bruins could definitely use some extra pop up top. IF Bergeron retires, it’s a five-alarm emergency. Miller goes an awful long way toward turning what could be a crisis into another opportunity to keep the contention window open.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

Technically, even without Bergeron on the books, the Bruins are tight up against the cap for next season. But they also have a boatload of expensive-but-valuable players that they can ship out to make room, including Jake DeBrusk, who is more-or-less gone already. They might appreciate salary retention on Miller, but they can make it work without.

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

The Bruins are overturning their core, and that’s opening up some long-term salary options. A full nine roster forwards hit UFA between now and when Miller would need a new contract in the summer of 2023. They’ve got major flexibility moving forward.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

The single best asset the Bruins can offer in return for Miller is defensive top-four RHD Brandon Carlo. Beyond him, they’ve got some high-profile prospects like Fabian Lysell to offer, along with ample future draft picks (just not their own first this year).

Odds: 7 to 1

New Jersey Devils

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The Devils are one of the few teams that could really use Miller more as a top-six winger than as a center. They’re stacked down the middle with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, and Dawson Mercer, but there may not be another top-six-quality forward on the roster. Miller could turn them into an instant playoff contender.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

With more than $25 million in cap space heading into the summer and all their top players under contract, the answer is decidedly “yes.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Same basic answer here. The Devils have Hughes and Hischier locked in to reasonable long-term contracts, along with Dougie Hamilton and his $9 million until 2028. There’s plenty of room around them for some other major commitments.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Oh yeah. New Jersey is stocked up with prospects at every position, including some that the Canucks are lacking. Scorers like Alexander Holtz, RHDs like Shakir Mukhamadullin, and, of course, that 2OA draft pick in the upcoming Entry Draft.

Odds: 7 to 1

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Carolina Hurricanes

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The top-end of Carolina’s forward corps is arguably the only weak spot on their roster. If they could add another elite scorer to Sebastian Aho, Andrei Svechnikov, and Teuvo Teravainen, they’d probably be considered a true Cup contender (if they weren’t already).

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

With Vincent Trocheck, Nino Niederreiter, and Max Domi all coming off the books, the Hurricanes have almost $20 million to play with this summer. Even better, with most of their blueline and their crease already taken care of, almost all of that cash can be allocated to forwards.

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

For now, anyway. The Hurricanes have a few more years left of under-value salaries for Svechnikov, Jaccob Slavin, and Brett Pesce. After that, it could get tricky, but hopefully not tricky enough to dissuade them from spending big bucks on Miller.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

After a few years of contention, the Hurricanes’ prospect cupboard is starting to empty out, but there’s still value to be found there. They have more forwards than defenders to offer, but there are still some intriguing RHDs available in Aleksi Heimosalmi, Scott Morrow, and Joey Keane.

Odds: 10 to 1

Colorado Avalanche

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“Need” is probably a strong word. The Avalanche may be the best team in hockey right now, but they are probably losing Nazem Kadri to free agency, and maybe Andrei Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin, too. Miller makes a stellar top-six even better.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

Amazingly, yes. Colorado has a staggering $26 million in cap space heading into 2022/23. Now, some of that is earmarked for either Darcy Kuemper or his replacement, but the rest of the core is locked down. There’s lots of room to work with.

Cap space for Miller extension?: MAYBE CHECK

The real answer is “it’s complicated.” Right now, it looks like there’s plenty of space well into the future, but then you’ve got to factor in a new contract for Nathan MacKinnon next year, which should cross the $10 million threshold. Combine that with high salaries already on the docket for Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog, and the money starts to run out fairly quickly. A Miller extension could be done, but not without making sacrifices elsewhere.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Assets for trade?: UNCHECK

Here, we hit a snag. The Avalanche have transformed themselves into true Cup contenders, but in doing so, they’ve emptied out most of their best future assets. They don’t have their first rounder this year, or a second rounder for the next three years. They’ve got a handful of middling prospects, but the only real difference-makers are young roster players Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook. Without them on the table, it may be difficult to put together a package worth the Canucks’ while. Still, this is Joe Sakic we’re talking about…

Odds: 12 to 1

Vancouver Canucks

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

If the Canucks trade Miller and don’t win the Andrei Kuzmenko sweepstakes, they would be in need of an extra top-six forward. Of course, they could fill that hole by simply not trading Miller.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

There’s not a ton of cap space available in Vancouver, but there’s definitely enough for another year of Miller. In fact, you might even say he’s already on the books.

Cap space for Miller extension?: UNCHECK

This is the primary reason why the Canucks are exploring a trade for Miller. Once the Canucks add future extensions for top-six forwards like Elias Pettersson, Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Vasily Podkolzin, it’s hard to imagine there being much money left over for Miller. Then there’s the need to improve the blueline, and the complication of Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s contract being in the way for another five years. Miller looks like an obvious cap casualty.

Assets for trade?: N/A

Not only do the Canucks not have to trade for Miller, they probably don’t have the assets it would require to do so in the first place.

Odds: 12 to 1

Toronto Maple Leafs

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

Again, “need” might not be the best term here. The Leafs do have their Fab Four of highly-paid forwards, plus Michael Bunting and a whole host of middle-six wingers. But if they’re looking to really shake things up after yet another first round exit — maybe via a trade for one of the Fab Four — Miller becomes a much more attractive piece for them.

Cap space for Miller now?: MAYBE CHECK

If they don’t cut salary, the Leafs will have a tough time just completing their roster from here on out. They still need a starting goalie, and they don’t have much to work with. If they do trade a high-profile forward, space becomes available — but they’re still probably a team that would really appreciate, and pay more for, a little retention on the Canucks end.

Cap space for Miller extension?: UNCHECK

With John Tavares already on the books for three more seasons at $11 million per, the Leafs would be foolish to sign a 30-year-old Miller to term. They’ll need that space to re-sign Auston Matthews in a couple of years. If they target Miller, it’s as a one-year mercenary.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Toronto seems to have a never-ending fount of young talent all throughout their system. An RHD like Timothy Liljegren or Topi Niemela would obviously be the highest priority, but they’ve got intriguing prospects at all positions, and a surprising amount of their own draft picks still on hand.

Odds: 15 to 1

St. Louis Blues

Need a top-six forward?: UNCHECK

For next year, anyway, Miller would be a luxury in St. Louis, even with David Perron likely exiting. They’ve still got Ryan O’Reilly, Vlad Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn, Jordan Kyrou, Pavel Buchnevich, Robert Thomas, and Brandon Saad under contract for 2022/23. That could change as soon as the season after, however, with O’Reilly and Tarasenko both UFAs in 2024.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

The Blues have been efficient with their cap, and now they can reap the benefits. They’ve got nearly $10 million to throw around this summer, and no major contracts to sign.

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Same goes here, especially with those big UFAs on the horizon. St. Louis can probably afford to keep most of the band together moving forward AND add a vital piece or two to the mix. Extensions for Kyrou and Thomas will cost money, but there’s no dead cap weighing the Blues down.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

There’s no one singular asset that leaps out from the Blues, save perhaps for star LHD prospect Scott Perunovich. A more likely outcome would be a quantity-over-quality-type offer from St. Louis, and there they’ve got ample draft picks and recent high selections with which to entice the Canucks.

Odds: 20 to 1

Nashville Predators

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The Predators need more scoring even if Filip Forsberg stays in town. If he goes to unrestricted free agency, it’ll be all hands on deck in Nashville.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

The Predators have nearly $25 million in cap space for 2022/23. Now, that assumes the departure of Forsberg, but he’s the only real player of note not already under contract for next year. They could re-sign Forsberg, add Miller, and still have buckets of space left over.

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Most of Nashville’s top players are locked in until 2025, at least, and there aren’t any major raises due in the near future. They should be free and clear to extend Miller, if that’s what they decide they want to do — although an internal cap could be a factor.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Young NHLers, first round selections, former first round picks, and intriguing prospects at positions of vital interest to the Canucks. You name it, the Predators can put it on the table. Their system is so strong that they could deal away a handful of premium assets for Miller and barely even feel it.

Odds: 20 to 1

New York Rangers

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The need was probably stronger before the Rangers booked their ticket to the Eastern Conference Final, but it might still be there. If Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp both leave via free agency, New York will definitely be looking for another top-six center.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

The Rangers have a ton of UFA and RFA deals to sort out this summer, but none are big-ticket enough to preclude them from adding Miller’s modest $5.25 million salary. They’d appreciate retention, but wouldn’t require it.

Cap space for Miller extension?: UNCHECK

The Rangers will need to be careful here. All that young talent is going to need to be paid eventually, and signing up another veteran to a long-term deal on top of Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad, Jacob Trouba, and Chris Kreider now could mean losing someone like Alexis Lafreniere in the future.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

We just mentioned all that young talent, and it’s definitely relevant here. Starting with stud RHD Braden Schneider and working its way down from there, the Rangers’ prospect cupboard is jam-packed with players that the Canucks could use. Prying them free will be the difficult bit, as New York has yet to put the real choice pieces on the table.

Odds: 25 to 1

Washington Capitals

Need a top-six forward?: UNCHECK

The Capitals have a strong, veteran top-six with chemistry. They could look to add Miller as a luxury to put them over the top for one last run, but it’s not their biggest priority.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

Even with all those vets on the salary roll, the Capitals still have $8 million in space heading into the summer. Much of that will have to go toward goaltending, but they should definitely be able to squeeze in another Miller-size contract if they feel the need.

Cap space for Miller extension?: MAYBE CHECK

It’s hard to say, really. On the one hand, the Capitals already have all those expensive veteran contracts on the books. On the other hand, they’re already kind of committed to that model until Alex Ovechkin retires, so what’s the harm in one more? The real risk comes when Ovechkin leaves, the Caps try to rebuild, and Miller is still banking millions as a 35-year-old.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

The Capitals don’t have quantity, but they’ve got quality. Agitating superstar scorer Hendrix Lapierre and RHD Vincent Iorio top the charts, and that offer could be supplemented by all sorts of picks and prospects.

Odds: 25 to 1

Columbus Blue Jackets

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The Blue Jackets need help virtually everywhere on their roster. Of course, they don’t necessarily need that help IMMEDIATELY, because they are rebuilding. Still, Miller is a hometown hero, and if they’re looking for a veteran forward to aid in that rebuild, they could certainly do worse.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

Cap space is not the issue in Columbus…it’s finding players who are worth spending cap space on!

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Same goes here.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Oh, yes. A Columbus offer might start with an NHL-ready RHD like Andrew Peeke or Adam Boqvist, or it might contain a truly top-flite prospect like Cole Sillinger. RHD prospect Corson Ceulemans would be one worth targeting.

Odds: 30 to 1

Anaheim Ducks

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

The Ducks have the makings of a nice little forward core with Trevor Zegras, Mason MacTavish, and Troy Terry, but they’re going to need more if they want to start competing for the playoffs in the near future. Miller expertly supplements the existing young talent, and Anaheim has specifically noted their desire for a veteran scorer.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

With $39.5 million in cap space heading into 2022/23, the Ducks have almost half of the allowable spending room available to them. They’ve got room for whatever they want.

Cap space for Miller extension?: CHECK

Absolutely. Even the best and brightest of Anaheim’s flock won’t be making the big bucks for a while yet, so they should have no problem paying Miller well for the next several seasons.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Even beyond the obvious star names, the Ducks have a bounty of future assets to make available. There are scorers like Jacob Perreault and Sam Colangelo, RHDs like Drew Helleson and Ian Moore, and a total of six selections in the first two rounds of the 2022 and 2023 Entry Drafts. The Ducks have assets for days.

Odds: 30 to 1

Pittsburgh Penguins

Need a top-six forward?: MAYBE CHECK

Miller to the Penguins only really makes sense if both Evgeni Malkin and Rickard Rakell fly the coup as UFAs, with Malkin’s fate obviously the more important of the two. If he goes, Miller makes a mighty fine replacement behind Sidney Crosby.

Cap space for Miller now?: MAYBE CHECK

Again, it all comes down to Malkin, and a little bit to Kris Letang. The Penguins have $23 million in space, but almost all of that goes to the big-name UFAs if they choose to remain in Pittsburgh.

Cap space for Miller extension?: MAYBE CHECK

Same answer here, really. Crosby’s contract is the only exorbitant one on the books moving forward, so they could have wiggle room for a long-term Miller deal, but that changes drastically depending on the other moves they make this summer.

Assets for trade?: UNCHECK

Unfortunately, even with the Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin connection, there’s not much to choose from here. Those two might have a particular affinity for a couple of assets in the Penguins’ stable, but from the outside looking in, it’s been picked clean. The Pens have draft picks, but what they don’t have is a single A-level prospect or young NHL player. Putting together a Miller-quality package would be near-impossible.

Odds: 35 to 1

Los Angeles Kings

Need a top-six forward?: CHECK

Don’t get us wrong; the Kings have plenty of potential top-six forwards in the mix already. But if they want a more sure thing, Miller looks like an upgrade on anyone they currently have.

Cap space for Miller now?: CHECK

The Kings have a lot of contracts to sign this summer, but they’re all going to be fairly cheap RFA extensions. They’ll have a few extra million to play with now and over the next couple of summers, at least.

Cap space for Miller extension?: UNCHECK

It’s a good news, bad news sort of situation for the Kings. They just have SO MUCH premium young talent that they’re going to have to keep an eye on the bottom-line in not just the present day, but for the next decade or so of contract negotiations. Adding a long-term, high-salary contract for a player on the wrong side of 30 could get dangerous pretty quickly, and Drew Doughty is already signed until 2027.

Assets for trade?: CHECK

Nobody in the world have both quality and quantity on display quite like the LA Kings. They have ten or more of the top-100 prospects in hockey, and an embarrassment of riches at RHD in particular, which is the Canucks’ greatest area of need. Brandt Clarke, Brock Faber, Helge Grans, Jordan Spence; the list really does go on and on.

Odds: 40 to 1

Minnesota Wild

Need a top-six forward?: MAYBE CHECK

The Wild seemed to do fine with their current collection of forwards, but Kevin Fiala may be pricing his way out of town. If he’s traded, that opens up a definitive spot in the Minnesota top-six.

Cap space for Miller now?: MAYBE CHECK

If Fiala moves, that also opens up enough cap space to accommodate Miller. If not, the Wild would need some retention. As of 2022/23, they’ve got a combined cap hit of nearly $15 million for the twin buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, so they’re working with a significant salary handicap.

Cap space for Miller extension?: UNCHECK

Those aforementioned buyout penalties stay in effect until the end of the 2024/25 season. Even with a majority of their core under contract long-term, the Wild just can’t afford to take risks for the next little while, and giving a lengthy deal to Miller would definitely count as a risk.

Assets for trade?: UNCHECK

The salary concerns almost make it a moot point, and it’s probably for the best. All of the truly enticing pieces in Minnesota — think Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy — are rightly untouchable. The rest is uninspiring. The Wild were in on Miller last year, but they won’t be this year.

Odds: 50 to 1

More from CanucksArmy: