J.T. Miller made perfect sense — and probably still does, to some degree — as the ideal trade chip for the Vancouver Canucks to float out to teams.
At 28 years old, he’s not an old player by any means, he’s effective at even strength, contributes on both the penalty kill and power play, and perhaps best of all, is on an extremely team-friendly contract for the rest of this season and next season as well.
All of these factors mean that if the Canucks were to trade Miller, they would absolutely get a king’s ransom in return.
And that was true before Miller even played a game this season.
With each strong performance Miller turned in this year — and there have certainly been many as of late — his trade value has subsequently increased.
The only issue is, his value has risen to such a point that teams are starting to think they won’t be able to match the Canucks’ high asking price, and instead, are beginning to move on to other targets, even if Miller is their first choice by a country mile.
Folks, you’re not dreaming.
J.T. Miller has, in essence, played himself off the trade market — in the least traditional sense.
Typically, if a player is underperforming, a team and its fans will look at the possibility of trading said player.
But in the case of Miller, the Canucks and their fans alike were salivating at the thought of what a player as effective as Miller could return. The future assets — whether that be draft picks or players — would, in theory, better line up with what many (including president Jim Rutherford himself) view as the Canucks’ competitive window, roughly two or more years down the line.
But Miller was so good and so effective, that the team has essentially decided that he’s simply not worth parting ways with unless a team absolutely blows their socks off with a trade proposal.
In the traditional sense, if a player that teams were once interested in ahead of the deadline plays himself out of trade rumours, it’s likely because the player was underperforming and the teams decided to go in another direction.
But again, teams are not moving on because they like their other targets more.
In fact, teams are “salivating” at the thought of adding Miller to their team, according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli.
“Now, when you look at J.T. Miller, I wanted to make one thing clear,” said Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli. “The interest is 100% there. There are teams that are frothing at the mouth to get J.T. Miller. I just think at this point — whether it’s the Canucks are playing a little bit hard to get or they’ve actually made the decision internally that he’s the guy that they want to keep and continue to build around — that he just doesn’t seem to be available at the moment. That he’s someone that cannot actually be engaged in talks.”
The team that’s been linked to Miller the most has hands down been the New York Rangers.
Larry Brooks’ the Rangers’ best efforts, the Tyler Toffoli trade between the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames was the first real trade domino to fall and set the trade market for Miller way too high.
2/ If Canucks get greedy and do not move him, Miller's trade value will diminish over the offseason when acquiring team would get him for one playoff run rather than two.
— Larry Brooks (@NYP_Brooksie) February 14, 2022
For those scoring at home, Toffoli was acquired for forward Tyler Pitlick, prospect Emil Heineman, a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, and a fifth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
Essentially — that’s a roster player, a B-level prospect and two picks, one of which is a first round pick; and all that was for an underperforming player on a relatively fair value contract that the Flames acquired to play on their third line.
This is all to say that the price tag for Miller is incredibly high, and rightfully so.
Even Canucks head coach Bruce Boudreau joked that given Miller’s play as of late, he’d only be able to get on board with a trade involving the star forward if the Canucks were getting Connor McDavid back in return.
“We don’t even talk about it, I haven’t talked one iota about J.T. getting traded. He’s the cornerstone right now — one of the cornerstones of our team, so we just go on. To me, that’s all noise. It makes for great media, and I love reading it all when they talk about trade deadline stuff, but nobody’s talked to me about anything.”
While the head coach certainly isn’t involved in all the day-to-day operations and trade conversations the club has with teams around the league, Boudreau’s feelings towards Miller are almost certainly shared by at least some voices in management.
Just recently, former Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa — who understands the inner workings of a winning locker room more than most — was adamant in saying that the Canucks shouldn’t be trying to trade Miller.
“When you get rid of these guys, that — ‘you can just draft a guy or develop somebody in the minors or even trade for them’ — and you find very quickly that you just don’t find these guys around that often. Über competitive, super consistent, twice now he’s had nine-game point streaks, little ornery, little bit, maybe doesn’t love the media, you know — who does that remind you of, Vancouver fans? Ryan Kesler. Right? And, to be honest, like, in 2014 when Kes left, they’re still looking to replace him and you find that you can’t get these guys — like, he goes to the front of the net, he’s a very complete player, he’s great on faceoffs. These guys don’t grow on trees,” said Bieksa.
Boudreau also gave one of the greatest votes of confidence we’ve heard from a Canucks head coach in quite some time when talking about Miller.
“He’s a leader,” said the Canucks’ bench boss. “He’s our leader offensively, and he’s our leader as a spokesperson. And I think a lot of the guys, you know, they follow him. I mean, he’s our real star. Every team has one, and I would say he’s our offensive star.”
On top of all this, whether some fans or media like it or not, the Canucks are pushing hard to be in the playoff race, and have played at a playoff clip since Boudreau took over behind the Canucks bench.
Even if this team’s flaws are still painfully obvious even through the wins — to trade a player who gets this kind of praise as a leader and who the coach describes as the team’s “real star” would be simply asinine.
The Canucks know this, and as the March 21st trade deadline approaches, they seem to have made it clear to teams that they’re not moving Miller unless they get an offer they simply cannot refuse.