Conor Garland Is A Keeper

By: Brayden Fengler / February 20, 2022  

When Conor Garland scored that amazing, yet ultimately meaningless narrow angled backhand goal in Saturday night’s loss to the Anaheim Ducks, I was shocked when I saw his season goal total appear on the jumbotron. 13 goals on the season, that’s it for Garland’s goal total this year, even though it feels like that number should be so much higher.

Garland is a hard worker, seemingly in on every opportunity that his team gets. If he’s ever taking it easy, it’s when the cameras aren’t on him, because a lack of effort from Garland is never something I’ve witnessed.

If Garland was playing in a casual pick-up game of hockey down at the Scotia Barn, he’d be called a try-hard, he’d be “sweaty”, but in the NHL, Garland is the player you want as a teammate, as he does nothing if not elevate this club’s compete level. 

Although to some degree Garland has cooled off since the Bruce Boudreau era began, he has not slipped so much that this team should loosen their grip on him. With the Canucks being in an unpredictable position heading into the trade deadline this year on March 21st, there are a number of ways the future could go for Garland and the Canucks.

His name and a few others seem to be on the tip of many tongues when discussing potential trades for Vancouver, but is Garland’s true value in the trade market? Or will it come from being a piece that this team can build around for years to come?

Garland is an Enticing Trade

It seems like Garland only just pulled on a Canucks sweater last week, and yet now there is potential that he could be leaving before he’s even broken it in. Trading Garland so quickly after signing him to such a quality deal, would seem like a complete 180 in a normal year, however this is not a normal year for the Canucks.

Garland may as well be a lifelong Canuck at this point, because the new management group that exists now has no predetermined loyalty to him, or any member of this Canucks team. This means that the valuation of what Garland, and all players for that matter, can bring to the team on the ice vs on the trade market, is now completely up in the air. Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin have nothing to prove by keeping or not keeping any players on this team.

The trade that Garland was a part of this past offseason, along with his former College Hockey Team Arizona Coyotes teammate Oliver Ekman-Larsson was truly a blockbuster deal. A deal that then Canucks GM Jim Benning thought would be a huge step towards a successful season.

However, even though this season as a whole did not immediately go in a positive direction with the inclusion of Garland and OEL, one element of the deal that was never in doubt was the excitement around the inclusion of Conor Garland. In many ways OEL was the biggest name involved, but from the get go there was an unbridled sense of optimism about what Garland could do for this team.

Garland earned 39 points in 49 games with the Coyotes last year, and has produced 29 in 46 to this point in his tenure with the Canucks. In Garland’s first 20 games with Vancouver he even held a .70 point per game percentage, helping the team to 14 points in that time span.

Garland’s continually decent numbers are of course one major factor making him attractive on the trade market, but what really sets him up as a valuable trade piece, is the small price teams would need to pay him under his current contract. He currently has 4 years left on his deal after this season, a deal which only has a $4.95M AAV.

Less than $5M a year for four years for an easy 20 goal scorer over the course of a regular 82 game season should sound more than enticing to most NHL teams. Then of course with Garland, what would add the cherry on top of acquiring him, is that he would almost instantly become one of the hardest working guys on whatever team he finds himself on.

Energy like that is contagious, and depending on the team, could rival the value of what Garland as an on ice player alone could be worth. 

If you’re an NHL GM and all of that doesn’t wet your appetite for some reason, how about the fact that Garland is far from aging out of his prime. Garland is only 25-years-old and when his current deal is over he’ll still only be 30, an age where he could potentially still have a handful of quality years left in the tank.

Even if he’s tapping out near 30, with his current deal there’s no risk of having to extend him in his late 20’s to then be overpaying him in his early 30’s. His contract ends at the perfect time for any team to easily avoid that guessing game.

Garland could hold value to any team, but I think that team should remain to be the Canucks. He’s young and cheap, and they have him for an amount of time that should fit right into the Canucks’ best productive window in 2-3 years.

Now, yes the Canucks’ window always seems to be like a carrot on a stick, with the team always chasing, never catching. But now thay there is new leadership holding the carrot, they seem to be actually making steps to move it closer. A player like Garland would only continue to help them move it closer.

Trade Miller Instead

Another big name floating around the rumour mill in regards to trades, has of course been J.T. Miller. Miller for my money is the surefire no brainer trade that this team should be making. Not Garland, not Brock Boeser, but Miller.

Miller may never hold this much value again for the rest of his career. I’m convinced that the more you look at Miller’s production, his age, and the time left on his contract, the Canucks would be foolish to keep him beyond this year’s trade deadline.

Miller currently demands a $5.25M AAV, not a price that should be scaring off too many potential buyers, especially when considering Miller’s insane production this season, and what big NHL names he is currently besting in the standings.

Miller sits 18th in the league-wide points total race, out performing some higher paid players, who have a similar amount of games played on the year. Players such as William Nylander, who sits 32nd on the list, while demanding a $6.962M AAV or Anze Kopitar who sits at 33rd while the L.A. Kings are paying him an AAV of an even $10M.

Miller is playing at the height of his career, leading his team, and most of the league by a mile in points production. Importantly, he also holds more value this year than he will next, because if he’s traded next season, he’ll be a player on an expiring contract, and can only act as a rental for whichever team he’s dealt to.

However, if Allvin and Co. opt to move Miller this season, he wouldn’t be a straight up rental, he would still have another year on his extremely manageable contract. A player of Miller’s caliber, with a contract in the Goldilocks zone of both term and price, can no doubt demand a lot in today’s NHL.

We’re talking multiple picks or multiple prospects, or a mix of prospects and a usable player now. The Canucks need a defenceman, an elite defenceman to fill their current void on the right side, and Miller could potentially be the way to get that and much more.

Who Stays Who Goes

The haul that Miller would demand should be massive and honestly, Garland could potentially demand something similar when considering his extended term at his current price. But the real kicker with all of this is that I just can’t shake the feeling that a player like Garland, who is young, has good term, is cheap and is usable right now, is the type of player that I would want the Canucks to get back in return for Miller.

The Canucks should trade Miller to get another Garland, and then some. Miller’s value should be capitalized on now, while he has the ability to demand a surely monstrous return.

God forbid the Canucks opt to trade Garland over Miller, and the piece(s) they get in return for Conor don’t live up to their potential. Then, what if Miller doesn’t play as “lights out” next year, even further diminishing the value of what the Canucks could pull out of him as a rental player. 

Obviously, that is a worst-case hypothetical, and the same logic can easily flip the script to suggest a best-case outcome as well. But I think a “best-case scenario” is way more likely with Garland on the team for years to come. A guy like him who already fits in and produces with many years still left under his belt, should not be so easily given away. Yes Garland holds value, but why don’t the Canucks just be the ones to capitalize on it?