Monday Mailbag: J.T. Miller’s surplus value, Canucks line optimization, an Aatu Räty update, and more

Photo credit:Matthew Henderson
Cody Severtson
1 month ago
We are so back, folks!
The sun is shining, the Canucks are winning again, and babies across the lower mainland were being named Brock in honour of the club’s impressive third-period comeback and an overtime victory over the Boston Bruins.
We’ve got a busy mailbag this week—the product of a winning team—so let’s get right into the questions!
JT Miller seems to always outperform his contract. What’s been his surplus value since arriving in Vancouver? Who else has been giving us the best surplus value over the years?
There are some really heady ideas here that are probably better suited in their own individual article. However, because I love my loyal Mailbag readers so much, I figured I’d try my best to paint the best picture of Miller’s surplus value this season.
First, on a “points are everything,” worst-of-the-CA-comment-section-tier of evaluating what J.T. Miller has meant to the Canucks, given his $8-million-dollar cap hit.
Miller ranks 217th among 867 active skaters to play in the NHL this season by Cap Hit Dollar per point. His 79 points rank fifth best in the NHL, and it effectively costs the Canucks $101,266 in cap space per point produced by Miller. That’s not even factoring in his ice time at 5-on-5, his role on the penalty kill, power play, or as the team’s de facto matchup center. Among the top 20 scorers in the NHL,
Granted, this is beyond cherry-picking, so I went to HockeyStatCards’ GSVA (game score value added) Rating leaderboards for the 2023-24 season. Among forwards, Miller has the 9th-highest rating for offense.
Forward GSVA Leaderboards from HockeyStatCard.com
Though his defensive game isn’t rated as high, Miller’s aggregate total game score ranks 11th-highest among all NHL skaters this year.
Aggregate Game Score leaderboards 2023-24 Season from HockeyStatCard.com
I can’t go back in time to see who else has created surplus value for the club relative to their contract, but Miller, Pettersson, Hughes, and Boeser rank in the top 30 among all NHL skaters by HockeyStatCard’s GSVA model. The eye test would suggest that this Canucks’ squads aggregate surplus value has never been as high as this season’s, both in dollars per point and GSVA.
Is Jeremy Swayman human? Or is he one of those AI bots the NHL has been talking about?
░S░A ░V ░E ░S ░I ░N░B░I░O
Yeah, that Swayman guy is pretty legit!
According to Moneypuck.com’s goals saved above expected model, Swayman ranks sixth-best in the NHL (three spots below Thatcher Demko) by total goals saved above expected (14.2 goals saved above expected).
Among tendies with at least 20 starts, Swayman ranks third by save percentage on shots on goal (.960), seventh by save percentage above expected (.007), and 11th by save percentage on unblocked shots (.953).
As a total aside, not meant to inspire any discussion, but ex-Canuck goaltender prospect Michael DiPietro ranks seventh in the AHL by both goals against average (2.29) and save percentage (.923), with a 16-6-0 record. He’s tied with Calgary’s Dustin Wolf, Toronto’s Dennis Hildenby, and Seattle’s Chris Driedger with the third-most shutouts this season, with four total. DiPietro has a .956 save percentage over his last five starts and a .944 save percentage with two shutouts over his last ten. Not bad!
Arturs Silovs ranks seventh with three shutouts, tied with New Jersey’s Isaac Poulter, and Big Save Dave himself for the Kings.
“What does this have to do with anything, Cody?”
First, because DiPietro was very gracious with his time when I was selected for the Botchford Project some five years ago. He answered all of my dumb questions about AHL and NHL shot quality and how he prepares for both.
Secondly, because the Bruins have a very strong goalie pipeline system. After Linus Ullmark and Swayman, the Bruins have Brandon Bussi, DiPietro, and Kyle Keyser all waiting in the wings. And that’s after letting go of Dan Vladar, who had very promising numbers in the AHL without any starts for the Bruins in his post-draft years.
They’ve also got 20-year-old 6’4″ netminder Reid Dyck in the WHL carrying the fifth-best save percentage and 6’4″ 21-year-old Philip Svedebäck carrying a top-15 goals-against average in a stacked conference.
When Dakota Joshua comes back, would you give Joshua-Lindholm-Garland a look as a line?
It’s definitely a no-brainer to get Joshua back with Garland the second he can return. You’re more confident in the long-term outlook with Miller, Pettersson, Lindholm, and Blueger down the middle than Miller-Pettersson-Blueger-Åman. Granted, this is no slight on Blueger, as I think he’s just as important to the Joshua-Garland duo’s success as any.
I’m looking ahead to the March schedule that sees Vancovuer play almost the entire month at home against mostly soft opposition. If Joshua isn’t ready to go, then I’m really interested in seeing what Bains-Lindholm-Garland can accomplish during that run with Tocchet dictating matchups.
The HockeyStatCards’ GSVA model wasn’t thrilled with that line’s performance against the B’s. I’m still impressed that, against the second-in-the-league Bruins, the Bains, Lindholm, and Garland trio combined for ten shots while out-chancing their opposition 4-1 at 5-on-5. Yes, they were on the ice for the Bruins’ second goal of the second period, but that’ll happen when you’re in the d-zone with Tyler Myers and Ian Cole playing rock-paper-scissors on who should drop below the goal line to attack the possessor.
Again, I’m very curious to see what Tocchet and his coaching staff can do with this trio and last change, considering five of the nine games in the homestand are against Washington, Buffalo, Montreal, Calgary, and Anaheim. Imagine this line starts cooking, and Joshua comes back to pump some life into the Pettersson-Höglander duo while Mikheyev plays PK specialist on the fourth line.
What’s a move you’d like to see from the Canucks before the deadline?
This season has been a season of being unafraid to move on from pieces at the expense of the long-term outlook if it meant immediate short-term cap/roster flexibility and improvement.
  • Tanner Pearson and a 3rd-round pick for an actual NHL-quality backup netminder.
  • A 5th-round pick for a cheap, defensively reliable forward with offensive upside to replace Pearson’s production.
  • An AHL depth piece and Jack Rathbone, who had underperformed at camp and needed a change of scenery, for an NHL-quality right-handed 7th/8th defenceman and an AHL depth piece.
  • Anthony Beauvillier, a cap dump included in the Horvat trade, was sent without retention to the Blackhawks for a conditional 5th-round pick and $4.15-million in cap space.
  • That conditional 5th-round pick from the Beauvillier trade was included with a 3rd-round pick for Carson Soucy, 5/6 insurance in Nikita Zadorov.
  • Jack Studnicka, acquired last October for DiPietro and a right-shot defensive prospect, was traded to San Jose for a pick and badly-needed defensive depth for the AHL team in 23-year-old Nick Cicek.
  • Andrei Kuzmenko, the club’s top RD prospect (2nd, depending on your mileage for Tom Willander), a 1st-round pick, a conditional 4th-round pick, and the signing rights to a prospect with a nonexistent scoring profile in the Finnish LIIGA for cap savings and Elias Lindholm.
So many of the moves this year have been to move from a position of weakness to a position of strength. I’m eyeballing Ilya Mikheyev’s play of late and the two years left on his $4.75-million-dollar cap hit contract. That screams to me, “upgrade potential.”
Of the current roster, Miller, Boeser, Garland, Höglander, Åman, Bains, Di Giuseppe, Hughes, Juulsen, Demko, Soucy, Poolman, Brisebois, and Mikheyev are signed next season. For a legitimate playoff run this season, I think the club needs another legitimate top-six forward and possibly added insurance on defence.
Earlier this year, Tocchet talked about how the Penguins used to rotate guys onto Crosby’s line and run it until the production went cold, then they’d go with someone else. For Elias Pettersson, it feels like this is Mikheyev’s last shot since they’ve tried literally everyone else with him this season.
Come game one of the playoffs, would the team prefer a $4.75-million-dollar PK specialist, Di Giuseppe, Åman, or a quality rental in their forward roster? Based on their moves so far, I think it’s the latter, and I can’t say I disagree. Find another legit top-six addition so the club can spend the final 22 games getting their lines as much runtime as possible.
Aatu Räty update?
Good news for the R/Canucks Discord Server’s #1 Aatu Räty enthusiast: Aatu Räty has been very good for Abbotsford after a very long, and very not-good run of team results.
After a brutal production lull from the end of 2023 through January—two goals and three assists through 15 games—Räty exploded with three goals and four assists over his last four games, earning Third Star of the Week honours from the AHL.
Räty sits tied with Linus Karlsson in production across all situations (34 points in 49 games) and sits tied with Max Sasson for second-most points at 5-on-5 among all Abbotsford skaters. Arshdeep Bains leads the Canucks with five goals and 17 assists as the 5v5 scoring leader.
In the last ten games, Abbotsford has outscored their opposition 24 to 23 across all situations (decent!) but has been outscored 15 to 10 at 5-on-5 (not good). With Räty on the ice, the Abbotsford Canucks have outscored their opposition 4 to 3 at 5-on-5 (pretty okay) and 12 to 7 across situations (decent!).
The hockey IQ is evident when you watch Räty play. His footspeed concerns are a work in progress, but he’s done an admirable job compensating for a lack of wheels with excellent positioning and playmaking. Räty’s 22 assists are tied with Linus Karlsson for second most on the team.
Due to his lack of physicality and motor, I’d be surprised to see him get a call-up this season. He’s a jack-of-all-trades, master of none, down in Abbotsford, who is likely better served being “the guy” in the AHL than playing sheltered minutes at 5-on-5 in the NHL, where his feet concerns are tougher to hide.
I know the #1 Aatu Räty enthusiast didn’t ask, but I’d be more inclined to see Max Sasson, or Tristen Nielsen gets a look with the big club before Räty due to their tenacity and “clutch factor” in big moments.
Let us know your answers to today’s questions in the comment section!

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