Much has been made — for good reason — about the Canucks’ upcoming decision on J.T. Miller.
It’s a choice that will have a huge impact on the direction of the franchise. Botch this situation and the Canucks could find themselves praying for good results at the draft lottery for years to come.
On the other hand, playing their cards correctly could set the team up to be contenders for a long time.
This is the first big test for new Canucks managers Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford. So far, they’ve won the of confidence of many Canucks fans, but they also have yet to make a super impactful decision.
Just as the failed Jake Virtanen and Olli Juolevi draft selections came to represent the Jim Benning regime, mishandling J.T. Miller would be a blemish on the new Canucks management team.
Jim Rutherford has been calculated in all of his media appearances thus far, staying away from any controversial takes. However, he did make some interesting comments in a recent press appearance that was covered by David Quadrelli for CanucksArmy.
“With J.T. Miller, we’ve suggested we’d like to keep him. He’s been a good player for the Canuck (but) it may not make sense for both sides,” Rutherford told Postmedia’s Patrick Johnston. “This is a time that he’s earned, going into free agency. We’d like to do it but we’ve got to be careful.”
Careful is exactly what the Canucks need to be when dealing with this situation. All the relevant factors need to be taken into account — and there are a lot of them.
Here are some of the biggest pros and cons that the Canucks need to weigh before making any decision related to Miller.
There are lots of great reasons why the Canucks would want to extend J.T. Miller, starting with the obvious:
He’s their leading scorer
The biggest reason to keep J.T. Miller is a simple one: he led the Canucks with 99 points last season. The 29-year-old forward had a career year and was the Canucks’ best skater all year long.
Miller is a great offensive player who can score in multiple different ways, from picking a corner with a deadly wrist shot to crashing the net hard on the rush. He’s versatile, smart, and skilled.
Miller makes it 3️⃣0️⃣ on the season 🎊 pic.twitter.com/mJJ0cXUTOt
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) April 20, 2022
Miller is also an excellent passer, something that sometimes gets glossed over when people discuss his skillset. He finished sixth among all NHL players with 67 assists last season despite playing with a rotating cast of linemates.
It would be extremely difficult to replace Miller’s production. He’s a deadly scorer.
The Canucks need strong leaders
Beyond his massive impact on-ice impact, Miller is also a vocal leader for this Canucks team.
While he does show his frustration when things aren’t going his way, he is one of the few players on the team that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Miller brings the energy and honesty that is sometimes needed for this team.
Letting Miller go would mean that the Canucks would need to find someone else to fill this role. While Bo Horvat has been a great captain so far, he doesn’t have the same abrasive attitude that is sometimes needed in professional sports.
The way that Miller acts is sometimes equivalent to the role that Ryan Kesler played for the early 2010s Canucks teams, and every great team needs that player who can provide a spark.
Those are two pretty big positives to re-signing J.T Miller, so what makes keeping him such a hard decision?
Well, here are a few reasons why keeping Miller might not be the best idea for the Canucks.
Miller’s next contract will be risky
Any extension for J.T. Miller is probably going to be at least six years in length with an average annual value of $8 million. Those numbers are the bare minimum to get the discussion going and any agreement could be for significantly more money or term.
This is a massive amount of risk for the Canucks to absorb. Miller is already 29 years old and a decline in production could turn his new contract into an albatross.
It’s easy to imagine Miller’s style of play translating into him not ageing particularly well. He’s absolutely a smart player, but he also relies on his physicality and strength in many situations. Physical attributes like those are more likely to deteriorate with age, especially as the wear and tear of the NHL takes a toll on his body.
Missing out on the chance to get younger
Not trading Miller would also be a missed opportunity for the Canucks to get younger.
Miller is the odd man out in terms of his age with the current Canucks core. The franchise has assembled a group of talented players in their early-to-mid 20s, led by Elias Pettersson (23), Brock Boeser (25), Quinn Hughes (22), Thatcher Demko (26), and Bo Horvat (27).
Canucks president Jim Rutherford has made it known that he wants to bring in players that are around 26 years old or younger, an age that Miller has already surpassed and will be well beyond during the prime years of a contract extension.
Trading Miller would likely be an opportunity to add at least one very good player under the age of 25, not to mention any draft picks acquired in the deal. This would help the Canucks get younger and add players who will be on cheaper contracts, potentially ELCs, to support the team’s budding core.
The Canucks could bolster their defence with a Miller trade
Last (but not least): by keeping Miller, the Canucks would be passing on an opportunity to move some resources to support their defensive group.
While the Canucks have allocated lots of their payroll to defencemen like Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers, the team still has a much stronger forward group. The addition of Andrey Kuzmenko only adds to this imbalance.
If the Canucks were to trade J.T. Miller, they might be able to receive a promising young defenceman as part of the package. Nils Lundkvist was reportedly part of an offer from the New York Rangers earlier in the year; other players like Damon Severson and even Bowen Byram have had their names mentioned in Miller trade rumours.
Do you think Miller is worthy of an extension? What’s the most that you would offer him to re-sign in Vancouver?
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