Patrik Allvin was ecstatic to step onto the Bell Centre stage and make the Canucks’ first pick of the NHL Draft, with Swedish winger Jonathan Lekkerimaki dropping into his club’s lap at 15th overall.
But after a whirlwind of rumours during the draft’s first round, there are a lot of people wondering why Allvin’s first pick didn’t come at 13th; a choice that originally belonged to the New York Islanders, but eventually turned into the Chicago Blackhawks drafting Frank Nazar. Did the Canucks potentially have a deal in place that would’ve landed them two spots higher and, more importantly, for a return that included J.T. Miller?
It began with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman saying on the broadcast — and tweeting — that something was going on with the Islanders and Canucks, and wondering aloud if the Islanders could be a potential destination for Miller.
Further, The Fourth Period’s Irfaan Gaffar tweeted six minutes into the festivities, connecting J.T. Miller and the 13th overall pick.
A scorer like Miller makes a lot of sense for a team like the Islanders. Lou Lamoriello has never been one to shy away from a veteran player, and the Islanders had just two players hit the 20-goal mark last season.
It sure seemed like some sort of deal was imminent. But when the dust cleared, the pick had been transferred to Montreal in exchange for defensemen Alex Romanov, before being flipped to Chicago for former third overall choice Kirby Dach.
When Patrik Allvin was asked about the rumoured trade discussion, Allvin claimed that “there was nothing going on” with the Islanders. Lou Lamoriello had a more cryptic response when he was asked about it: “Talk to Vancouver,”
It sure seems like there was a deal at some point on the table, and if there’s one thing Lamoriello is known for, it’s his attitude towards leaked trades. Mike Halford posted a segment from an Athletic article referencing the last major Canucks-Lamoriello transaction; the Cory Schneider trade in 2014
But while the Canucks have been mum on details since the alleged deal broke down, there’s been plenty of info from the Islanders’ camp. Chris Botta, a former Islanders PR head claimed that Vancouver had refused to let New York talk to Miller’s agent about a contract extension, and that’s where things ended.
On the newest episode of the 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman offered a similar account. “One thing I think that is true is that the Canucks aren’t letting anybody talk to J.T. Miller about an extension. Was that what happened here? I still think we’re gathering that, and that’s kind of why there’s a little bit of a stalemate,” Friedman said.
Not giving the Islanders contact with Miller is an understandable reason to break off negotiations, and it doesn’t make sense why Vancouver would refuse to let a team talk to a player they’re trying to trade. And now that Allvin has refused to acknowledge any discussions, it puts them between a rock and a hard place for getting their version of events out there.
In Patrick Johnston’s newest article for The Province
, Johnston suggests a couple of possibilities for why the Canucks might’ve gone in this direction, including one based on how Miller and his agent might be approaching the situation. “My immediate questions are: were the Canucks afraid that Lamoriello would have sticker shock and decide to walk away at that point, something that might send a ripple around the league and scare off any other potential suitors? Or is it possible Miller and his agent have set a high price in an effort to boss the situation, as has been happening in the NBA and in soccer, where the players have seized a great deal of control away from teams, a situation that the NHL has long been wary of?”
We’ll likely never know the concrete reason why the Canucks’ potential trade with the Islanders was nixed at the last minute, what exact pieces were involved, or how much it changed Vancouver’s game plan for the rest of the first round. But it does seem clear that a disconnect between the two sides broke down the deal at the eleventh hour, and according to TSN’s Darren Dreger
, the Canucks management is back to listening to offers for Miller with no set deadline for a trade.
And yet, the Canucks still got their player two spots later. And they still have time to trade J.T. Miller for the right price to another suitor. Patrik Allvin can easily accomplish everything his front office set out to do over the course of this week, but it won’t stop Canucks fans from wondering “what if?”
Hopefully we’ll find out more soon, because it certainly seems like there’s more to this story.