As we near the first offseason in Vancouver for Jim Rutherford, Patrik Allvin, and company, a big decision looms with their near-100 point player, J.T. Miller.
Canucks President Jim Rutherford has said the team should have a better idea of what an extension would look like with Miller by the draft, and by all accounts it will likely be a deal that the team isn’t comfortable with, meaning the Canucks would probably pursue moving Miller before next season starts.
About a week ago, CanucksArmy’s own David Quadrelli spoke to an anonymous league executive about the potential package that would likely need to include a 1st and 2nd round pick, a defence prospect, and a young roster player.
The big question is, which teams are willing to pay that price and who could be part of those packages? The issue that arises is there aren’t a lot of teams that are in a spot to acquire someone like Miller while also having all the pieces to make that hypothetical trade work.
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Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the teams that have reportedly expressed interest or make sense as a trade partner based on their competitive window. Some of the hypothetical offers include a forward instead, but that’s just due to the nature of their prospect systems. Also, some of them may seem like an overpay, but it does seem like Canucks’ management is waiting for an offer to “wow” them.

New York Rangers

The Prospect – Braden Schneider, RD, 20

I think we are all very aware of the defensive prospects in the Rangers’ system at this point. According to Sportsnet 650’s Satiar Shah, New York had offered an underwhelming package with Nils Lundkvist as the headliner. I don’t think Lundkvist is a bad centrepiece of a trade at all, but the surrounding pieces would need to be better than if they were to include the main defenceman most people want from the Rangers, Braden Schneider.
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Schneider played just over half the season in the NHL this season, totaling 11 points. Points aren’t the main attraction with the 20-year old as he’s been marketed as a defence-first defenceman, which theoretically would be the perfect long-term partner for Quinn Hughes if Schneider was to reach his potential.

The Roster Player – Filip Chytil, C, 22

I’m not too excited about Chytil’s future as he seems destined to be a bottom-6 forward, but the Canucks may have to concede on the roster player front if teams are going to pony up in other areas. I would be interested in seeing if there’s a way for the Canucks to add Kaapo Kakko as the roster player instead, but that would likely mean the Canucks need to add a bit on their side or sacrifice somewhere else in the package.
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The Picks – 2022 1st, 2023 2nd

For most teams, if they were to make a move for Miller at the draft I would assume they’re moving a 1st rounder this season and next year’s 2nd (or vice versa) to maintain some balance in their picks. The Rangers are a special case, if they end up beating the Carolina Hurricanes they would fulfill a condition on their trade with the Winnipeg Jets and would have to send their 1st round pick to Winnipeg instead of the 2nd they will send if eliminated by the Hurricanes. There are a lot of variables still up in the air as they remain in the playoffs, but realistically there will be a path for them to send a 1st and 2nd regardless of when they get eliminated.

Los Angeles Kings

The Prospect – Brock Faber, RD, 19

Everybody’s second favourite Faber! Brock is just 19-years old, plays the right side, and is showing some serious defensive upside, which would make him an ideal long-term option with Quinn Hughes, which is likely the main target for Canucks’ management. The Kings also have Brandt Clarke on the way, who they took at 8th overall last year. Clarke plays the right side and with Drew Doughty, Sean Durzi, and others still in LA, there is a bit of a road block for Faber if he wants to make the jump to the NHL.
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The Roster Player – Rasmus Kupari, C, 22

There will kind of be a theme to the “roster player” part of these potential packages. Usually it’s a player that has some upside, though it’s limited, and a change of scenery may help unlock whatever potential they have left. Kupari fits that as a 22-year old right-handed Center. He only put up 13 points in 57 games this season, but he does fill a position of need for the Canucks and maybe there’s a chance he finds some sort of role in the bottom-6 with the team.

The Picks – 2022 1st, 2023 2nd

After a run to the playoffs, the Kings will be picking 19th this season. They may be high on their chances heading into next season, but I think they would still choose to be safe and move off this year’s 1st rounder as opposed to risking next year’s. Overall, LA has a pretty deep prospect pool to choose from, so there could be a lot of different players and combinations brought up in trade discussions.
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Carolina Hurricanes

The Prospect – Scott Morrow, RD, 19

Morrow is a 19-year old RD that put up almost a point-per-game in his first NCAA season, and would obviously fit into the Canucks future plans pretty well. It would be interesting to see how he plays outside of college, but the upside for him to be a key piece in the team’s top-4 and another potential partner for Hughes.

The Roster Player – Martin Necas, C, 23

This may be a big ask but Necas’ development has stagnated a bit since entering the league a few years ago. He does seem to have a role in the top-6 for the Hurricanes but Miller would be a clear upgrade over Necas on both ends of the ice, as Necas has struggled quite a bit in his own zone. He is a Center as well, which again would be an ideal fit for the team moving forward. Necas is also an RFA at the end of the season so there’s a chance the Canes value other players over him.
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The Picks – 2023 1st, 2022 2nd

This package as a whole would be a pretty huge haul for the Canucks if they were able to secure it. I doubt they would be able to get both picks with two high-upside players like Morrow and Necas, but that being said the price needs to be met when acquiring a near-100 point player like Miller. This would be a really hard to offer for the Canucks to pass up, even if that 2nd pick wasn’t included.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Prospect – Matthew Knies, LW, 19

Knies has quickly outperformed his expectations one season after being drafted. He’s a big forward with top-6 potential and although he does play Center, it seems much more likely that he will be a winger once he reaches the NHL. The Leafs do have some intriguing defensive prospects, including Topi Niemela, but I do like the upside in Knies’ game a bit more as he could help solidify the top-9 for the Canucks’ winger situation moving forward.
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The Roster Player – Timothy Liljegren, RD, 23

Liljegren’s numbers both offensively and defensively were really good in his 61 games with the Leafs this season. As a RD at 23-years old, he could be the perfect fit long-term as a partner for Hughes, which would obviously be a pretty crucial part of whatever moves the Canucks are making moving forward. The issue is that the Leafs also need defencemen, and I doubt they want to move someone with his potential unless they can add someone else in another move. Or the Canucks are in a super giving mood and let Tyler Myers tag along with Miller in the trade.

The Picks – 2022 1st, 2023 3rd

The Leafs only have 3 picks in the upcoming draft – their 1st, Winnipeg’s 3rd, and their 7th. I doubt they want to move any picks for this season, but to get a player like Miller they’d have to move either this season or next’s 1st rounder, and I think most teams will be more willing to part with this season’s. The Leafs also don’t have a 2nd next season, so I’d assume that they would try to attach a 3rd instead. This package is still a win for the Canucks in my eyes, even without a 2nd.
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Minnesota Wild

The Prospect – Marat Khusnutdinov, C, 19

Khusnutdinov projects to be a good two-way forward with some offensive upside. He would likely be a middle-6 forward on the Canucks when he comes over from the KHL, which is expected to be in a couple years. It’s tough to tell how teams value Russian players with the current state of the world, so this could be a way for the Canucks to capitalize on someone that may be undervalued due to circumstances outside of the player’s control.

The Roster Player – Calen Addison, RD, 22

Addison has only played 18 games in the NHL in the past couple seasons, but he has been nearly a point-per-game in the AHL as a RD. In his limited NHL time the 22-year old also showed well defensively, and as is the case with a lot of players involved in these packages, he could be a long-term fit on the opposite side of Hughes moving forward.
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The Picks – 2022 1st, 2023 2nd

The Wild are in a difficult position as they have almost $15 million in dead cap each of the next two seasons following the buyouts of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. That being said, their roster has a lot of good pieces that seem ready to compete now, but there will likely be some cap casualties for them, namely Kevin Fiala. It’s hard to see how they fit an extension for Miller in their cap structure if they do acquire him, though he would fill the gap if Fiala is moved this offseason.

Philadelphia Flyers

The Prospect – Cam York, LD, 21

York split his time between the NHL and AHL last season. I do think there’s a lot of top-4 upside in his game, though it is hard to see a fit on the Canucks’ left side, unless they were to move Ekman-Larsson in a separate deal. As far as value goes though, he’s one of the better options for the Canucks to target as the headlining piece of that trade.
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The Roster Player – Morgan Frost, C, 23

I like the upside in Frost’s game more than some of the other roster players that may be available from other teams. I do think the Canucks will target centers when it comes to this part of the package, and Frost fits the age range the team would be searching for as he just turned 23-years old. Again, he would likely be a bottom-6 forward but if he hits his potential there could be a bit more to his game.

The Picks – 2023 1st, 2022 3rd

I would do anything in my power to get the Flyers 2023 1st round pick. They’re a team that wants to be competitive but just don’t have the pieces to do it even if they acquired Miller. There’s a very high chance that could be a lottery pick, and if Chuck Fletcher makes the pick available the Canucks need to capitalize. Also, the Flyers do not have a 2nd rounder in the next couple years so they would likely have to include a 3rd rounder, which could improve the likelihood of a better prospect or roster player going to Vancouver.
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New Jersey Devils

The Prospect – Alexander Holtz, RW, 20

A trade with New Jersey would be a bit difficult to assemble because there seems to be clear tiers in their prospect system, so either the Canucks aren’t getting someone with huge upside, or they’re getting someone that’s almost a can’t-miss player. I know everybody would love to see Luke Hughes play with Quinn, but realistically I can’t see New Jersey moving their best defensive prospect while it’s still a position of need for them. Alexander Holtz is likely the best prospect in the Devils’ system, even including Luke Hughes, so that would be a huge asset for the Canucks to get back. I think Holtz is almost as unlikely to move as Hughes, but he could become more expendable depending on who they take at 2nd overall this year. It’s a big ask though, and I can’t see the Devils wanting to add much more than Holtz even if they did move him.
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Aside from Hughes, there aren’t really any clear cut top prospects on the defensive side for the Devils, though they do have a couple to keep an eye on. Reilly Walsh plays on the right side, is 23-years old, and put up 43 points in 70 games with the Utica Comets this season. Also, Shakir Mukhamadullin (taken with the pick the Canucks originally traded for JT Miller) is a 20-year old D-Man that has some upside, but has yet to play on North American ice. Those two could be options as part of a trade, but that would mean the Devils would have to add in other areas.

The Roster Player – Jesper Boqvist, C, 23

Boqvist has spent the last few years bouncing between the NHL and AHL, but the 23-year old did put up 23 points in 56 games this season. I don’t think there’s huge upside in his game personally, but he does play center and could fill a spot on the third line for the Canucks.
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The Draft picks – 2023 1st, 2022 2nd

I’m assuming that after winning the 2nd overall pick, the Devils’ 1st rounder is off the table. A package of Holtz, Boqvist, and two picks would be a home run for the Canucks, which is why I don’t think this combo is that likely. Maybe I’m over-valuing Holtz, but he would immediately solidify the top-6 of the Canucks if they were able to acquire him.
I would say a combo of Walsh, Boqvist, and the picks might be more realistic, but if that’s the offer I may choose another team over the Devils (unless you want to bet on that 2023 1st being a lottery pick).

Colorado Avalanche

The Prospects/Roster Players – Bowen Byram (LD, 20) and Alex Newhook (C, 21)

Calling an audible on this one. The Avalanche are without a 1st round pick this year and don’t have a 2nd rounder for the next three years, so realistically they’re not in a position to move many more picks. We all know the potential of Byram, but the injury concerns are definitely still there. I doubt the Avs jump on this offer, but if they did end up losing Nazem Kadri this offseason Miller could be a very suitable replacement.
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The addition of Newhook is necessary from the Canucks’ side, not only because they wouldn’t be attaching any picks, but it would be tough for them to put all their eggs in the Byram basket considering his injury history. However, if the Canucks are confident in Byram’s future, I wouldn’t be surprised if the offer was him and a 3rd rounder or something along those lines. Regardless, it’s hard to see a fit between the two teams, and the Avalanche may only be interested in Miller if they don’t end up winning the Stanley Cup this year.
There are likely more than 8 teams that will be interested in acquiring Miller, but for the most part these are the teams that make the most sense, both from their point of view and for the Canucks. I do think any of the offers mentioned would be a solid return for the Canucks that (for the most part) fit how the league exec estimated Miller’s trade value, but whether or not they actually follow through on getting a sufficient return remains to be seen.
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