Trading J.T. Miller makes a lot of sense for a tanking team like the Canucks
Photo credit:© Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
6 months ago
When Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin signed J.T. Miller to a seven-year, $56 million contract extension back in September, it was based on the idea of the 29-year-old being a core part of a regularly contending hockey team.
Fast forward half a year, and things haven’t exactly gone according to plan.
Miller has undoubtedly struggled to live up to the lofty expectations his 99-point season in 2022-23 set, albeit while still picking up 51 points in 56 games. But the far bigger change has been in the team’s perception of themselves. The Canucks have fallen completely out of the playoff race, with seemingly no competitive window in their near future.
None of what’s transpired is specifically Miller’s fault, but his future with the team is far more uncertain than it was at the beginning of the season. And with the team’s current direction, it seems more and more likely that trading Miller before his extension kicks in would be the most responsible course of action in the long run.
From a pure hockey standpoint, Miller’s salary is a luxury the Canucks can no longer afford over the next few years as they navigate restructuring a roster that, in the GM’s own words, requires “major surgery”. Meanwhile, there are playoff-caliber teams who would be willing to acquire him for the right price, and it’s a direction the Canucks need to seriously explore.
But if Allvin is going to sell a team on Miller, he’ll have to do so a bit creatively.
Rather than promoting him solely on his long-term outlook, the Canucks should be advertising Miller’s current $5.25 million cap hit as a playoff rental. For any postseason-bound team that’s looking for added scoring punch, Miller can absolutely provide that.
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Miller’s play in his own end might be a larger liability on a roster that’s as weak in the back end as the Canucks are. But on a team with a strong blue line and the room to spend, such as the New Jersey Devils or Minnesota Wild, any negative defensive impact can be much more realistically cancelled out.
Regardless of his skill, getting a team to pay a realistic price for Miller will be extremely difficult with his seven-year extension. But the value of freeing up his $8 million cap hit is much more important to the Canucks right now, since it would allow the front office to weaponize their cap space and acquire draft picks and prospects in the short term.
Because of the big extension attached to him, the Canucks likely wouldn’t be able to get anything near the package of a roster player, a prospect and a first-rounder that the front office was rumoured to be asking for last offseason. But they can likely still get a decently high pick, somewhere in the second or third round, plus a mid-range prospect if they’re willing to retain on the last season of Miller’s current deal.
And if that offer comes in, the Canucks should absolutely take it.
Regardless of how well Miller lives up to his new deal, with several unmovable contracts already on the books, it won’t be enough to push Vancouver back into playoff contention. And the sooner the Canucks figure that out, the faster they can use the trade return he’d provide to build a winner.
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