9 reasons to love the Canucks’ J.T. Miller extension
Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
To quote a poorly-written sitcom character:
“Well, that happened.”
The “that” in question, of course, is the Vancouver Canucks’ extension of one Jonathan Tanner Miller to the tune of $56 million, spread over seven years at an average annual value of $8 million. The contract comes with a full no-movement clause in the first four years and a modified no-trade clause in the final three, and that’s just one of the reasons why the extension is proving…controversial in the fanbase, to say the least.
But you know what? There are enough controversies in the world today. What there isn’t enough of is positivity. So, for the moment, we’re chucking aside critical thought and concrete analytics to tell you why you, a Vancouver Canucks fan, should LOVE the JT.. Miller extension.
#1: The Canucks are officially in win-now mode
We cannot guarantee that the Canucks are going to contend this season.
We cannot even tell you whether they’re going to make the playoffs or not.
But with this signing, we can officially state that the Canucks are “going for it.” If they’re not “all-in,” they’re definitely in “win-now” mode, and that’s generally a lot more fun for the fans in the present moment than any form of rebuild.
The Canucks’ goal, each and every time they step on the ice, is going to be to win, and wins are what they are going to expect from themselves — with Miller himself no doubt leading the attitude-charge.
Canucks fans can look forward to watching the standings all season, and they can set aside their fears of having their favourite players traded away — at least for right now. With Miller in the fold and already burning daylight on a contract that probably won’t age well, the Canucks are going to be making moves with an eye toward competing this season and for the next couple. That means players that are exciting to watch right now, not ones with “potential” to get excited about in a few years. It means that the 2022/23 season matters, and not just in the long-term sense.
#2: The Canucks now have the best centre depth in the league
The Edmonton Oilers might have something to say about this, but who listens to the Edmonton Oilers? And who else is even close?
A 1-2-3 punch of Miller, Elias Pettersson, and Bo Horvat — the lineup Bruce Boudreau has been telling us all summer that he plans to use— is a truly a sight to behold for a franchise that hadn’t ever really had a true first line center until the last two cores came along. It’s the sort of thing that will overwhelm other teams, regardless of the shape of the rest of the roster, and could easily be a difference-maker in a future playoff series or two. Center depth is perhaps the single most valuable part of building a contending team, and the Canucks can safely check off that box now.
Throw in your choice of Curtis Lazar, Dakota Joshua, or Jason Dickinson as the 4C, and you’re really cooking up a center depth stew.
#3: The potential top-nine combos are worth drooling over
The only bad thing to say about the Canucks’ current set of top-nine forwards is that someone very talented is going to be left out of it.
In addition to Miller, Pettersson, and Horvat, all of Brock Boeser, Conor Garland, Vasily Podkolzin, Ilya Mikheyev, Andrey Kuzmenko, Tanner Pearson, and Nils Höglander. One of those players either winds up traded before the season starts or on the fourth line, and that’s a testament to the quality of the forward lineup.
With three high-octane centers and a bunch of wingers that can play on either side, the combinations are endless and endlessly enticing. Travis Green would have had a field day with this depth chart.
The new model of success in the NHL does seem to be rolling three scoring lines, and the Canucks can’t help but to do that now.
#4: Miller chose the Canucks over the open market
It’s nice to be wanted.
Miller had the opportunity to wait out this year, do his best to score a bunch more points, and then hit the open market as a just-turned-30-year-old.
Surely, someone would have offered him a contract worth just as much as the one he signed with the Canucks, if not a larger one.
Instead, Miller chose to stay in Vancouver. He’s spoken openly about enjoying this group of players, and in believing that they can win together (so long as they can fix that darn blueline).
With that in mind, we can expect Miller to remain motivated, instead of resting on the laurels of his $56 million.
#5: Miller and Boudreau have chemistry, and they’ll get to spend a full season together
Canucks fans are fairly split on their opinion of Miller, but Bruce Boudreau knows what side of the debate he’s on. Pretty much from Day One, Boudreau has enthused about Miller’s play, his leadership, and his drive, and Boudreau’s also been quite open in the major and ongoing role he sees Miller playing in his lineup.
Miller was one of the few players actually having a good start under Green last season, but even he saw an uptick in his production after Boudreau took over, propelling himself to a new career high of 99 points.
Now, Boudreau and Miller are going to have a full season — at least — to work with, and you can bet that they’re both excited about that.
#6: The Pacific Division is wide open
As we said at the outset, we can’t guarantee that the Canucks’ attempts to win now will actually result in them winning now. But, at the very least, we can say that they’ve picked out the least competitive division in the NHL in which to attempt to compete.
The Pacific Division just ain’t what it used to be. Calgary still looks like a B-tier contender, but they’ve also experienced an immense amount of turnover and could struggle to maintain chemistry. Edmonton rides or dies on Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, which usually means they ride those two until they die.
The Vegas Golden Knights flew too close to the sun and are now icarus-ing right out of relevance. The Kings are on the rise, but they’re still caught awkwardly between their old guard and their young guns. Anaheim was looking fine, but then Trevor Zegras had to go and put the EA Sports cover curse on them. Seattle is so bad we almost forgot about them.
Remember that, had they played the entire season at the same pace that they did under Boudreau, the Canucks would have easily made the playoffs in 2021/22. With Miller now not going anywhere and a few choice additions on top of him, there’s no reason not to believe that the Canucks have a real shot at the postseason in 2022/23.
And once you’re in…
#7: Right here, right now, Miller is worth his salary
It’s hard to look at a $56 million contract that lasts a player until the age of 37 and call it a bargain. But if you’re just looking at the cap hits in the present day and the days to come, it’s hard not to believe that Miller will be worth his salary — for a year or two, anyway.
Miller’s $8 million AAV sits in a nine-way tie for 51st-highest in the NHL as of 2023/24. Presumably, he’ll slide a little further down the list as more contracts are signed between now and the beginning of that season.
Over the past three seasons, only 11 players have scored more points than Miller’s 217. Last year, his 99 points sat ninth overall, nestled neatly in between Matthew Tkachuk ($9.5 million AAV) and Mitch Marner ($10.9 million AAV).
Miller can regress a far bit back from 99 points — and he probably will — and still be good value at an $8 mil cap hit. It’s what comes afterward that is the real worry, but that’s a problem for another day. Right here, right now, J.T. Miller is worth the dough.
#8: The Canucks won’t have to worry about playing against him now
Miller can be a tough player to play against. He’s got immense offensive skill, a tenacious style, and is not above descending into bouts of old-school antagonism. He also seems like the kind of guy to really take things personally.
Surely, having to play against a ticked off Miller on a regular basis was not something that the Canucks themselves were looking forward to. Had he ended up with one of his rumoured Western destinations, like LA or Minnesota, the Canucks would have had to see a lot of him, and you just know he would have rained down some multi-point games upon them. He would have face-washed Elias Pettersson and speared Thatcher Demko in the groin.
Now, there’s nothing to worry about…unless you’re not a Canuck.
#9: Any one of us could die tomorrow
This might sound like a joke entry, included just to make sure the number of items matched Miller’s jersey number, and it kind of is, but it kind of isn’t.
Hey, life is all too short, and none of us know how much time we have left.
Waiting around for rebuilds and retools might make practical sense. It might be the only proven method of ensuring long-term success in professional team sports. But it’s not always the most fun, and it requires a lot of patience, and sometimes (most of the time) it doesn’t even pay off.
The Canucks are going for it today, not tomorrow, and today is all that any of us can truly count of having.
Undoubtedly, the Canucks are more fun to watch with Miller on the team. Have fun. Watch Miller be a part of what-just-might-be the greatest assemblage of offensive talent that this franchise has ever put forth.
Maybe, just maybe, the win-now gambit pays off. And what happens when a win-now gambit pays off?
You win. Now. (Before you die!)
Hey CA readers, did this article strike you as a little too positive? Worry not. “Nine reasons to hate the J.T. Miller extension” is dropping soon.
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