Can the Canucks actually sign J.T. Miller? Analyzing comparable contracts and more

Photo credit:Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
2 years ago
When Canucks president Jim Rutherford went on Donnie and Dhali – The Team near the end of last month, he had lots to say.
One of the big topics of discussion was the impending decisions that need to be made on Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and J.T. Miller’s contracts. All these players are on deals that expire within the next 12 months and the Canucks will need to decide if they factor into the team’s future plans.
When asked about re-signing Miller, the most interesting of all the potential extensions, Rutherford had the following to say.
“Yes, that’s the goal. We’ll see where that goes and then decisions will be made at that time. Everybody thought he was going to be traded at the trade deadline and he wasn’t and he continued on. He had a great year for the Canucks, a career year for himself, and he’s got a lot of good hockey left in him.”
After scoring 99 points last season, Miller is an asset of a quality that the Canucks haven’t possessed in a decade. After earning only $5.25 million per season during his time with the Canucks, he’s in line for a hefty raise. Both the Canucks and Miller’s camp want to get a deal done, but can they find terms that allow both parties to leave the table happy?
This likely stands as Miller’s last chance to get that massive contract. He’s going to want security on his contract in the form of many years with a high AAV. When Miller’s camp arrives at negotiations, they’re sure to use player comparables to fight their case.
Let’s take a look at some of the players that could help us build and ultimately predict Miller’s next contract.

Three Player Comparables for J.T. Miller’s Camp

Mika Zibanejad, 8 years @ $8.5 million

One of the most cited comparables for Miller is Mika Zibanejad, the Swedish forward who signed with the Rangers last offseason for $68 million over eight years, resulting in an AAV of $8.5 million. The two forwards were born just a month apart which means that while Zibanejad was younger during his free agency, there are a lot of similarities between the two situations.
Zibanejad scored 50 points in 56 games during the season prior to signing this contract. Miller had more production than this and thus will look to the $8.5 million as a baseline, especially considering the Rangers also handed a no-movement clause to the Swedish forward, something the Canucks might be scared to do after recent history with those types of clauses.

Logan Couture, 8 years @ $8 million

Going back to 2018, Logan Couture signed a $64 million / eight-year contract ($8 million AAV) with the San Jose Sharks. This deal was signed after Couture had just scored 34 goals and 61 points in 78 goals. Once again, this production pales in comparison to Miller’s career season. Couture was 30 years old when this contract kicked in, the same age that Miller will be when his extension begins.
Since then, Couture has declined as a player and the Sharks are now stuck with this commitment. This past season, he scored only 23 goals and had 56 points in 77 games. He also has a significant no trade clause that allows him to block all but three teams league-wide he could go to. Couture’s contract stands as a warning sign to the Canucks that there are few players who can continue to improve in their late 20s and early 30s.

Tomas Hertl, 8 years @ $8.1375 million

This is another contract that was signed by the Sharks. Hertl’s extension hasn’t kicked in yet, but starting this season he will be in the first year of a $65.7 million / eight-year contract ($8.1375 AAV). Once again, Hertl was given a no-movement clause that weakens as the contract continues. Hertl signed this contract in March of 2022, a season in which he scored 30 goals and had 64 points in 82 games.
Once again, Miller’s production blows Hertl out of the water as he had 35 more points despite playing two fewer games. Going purely by the numbers, it seems very reasonable for Miller to ask for at least $8.5 million with term and a no-movement clause of some type.

The Canucks’ stance on the issue

For the Canucks, any number over $8 million with significant term will likely require a very difficult decision. While Miller’s play this year was definitely worth more than that number, the team’s shaky salary cap situation and the potential of a steep drop-off mean the Canucks need to think long and hard.
Looking at the comparables above, Miller’s camp has every right to demand more than $8 million. This means that the Canucks likely continue to move toward trading Miller to recoup some of his immense value, perhaps as soon as this summer’s NHL draft.
How the Miller saga unfolds for the Canucks will play a huge role in the direction of the franchise. Botch this decision and the Canucks could see this core’s window evaporate into thin air. However, if they get it right, this could turn into a trade that fans look back upon as a necessary sacrifice, one that pushed the Canucks towards the Stanley Cup.

Our ultimate prediction

With all of this in mind, we’re predicting that if the Canucks manage to get Miller signed, it’ll be for 6 years @ $8.5 million. 
Anything less would be considered a discount, and we have no reason beyond hope to believe that Miller would sign for less than what he’s worth on what will likely be the biggest contract of his career.
What do you think a Miller contract would look like for the Canucks? Do you think that it will be possible for the two sides to come to an agreement?
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