By: Brayden Fengler / September 2, 2022
The Vancouver Canucks long-running game of love it or list it, with forward J.T. Miller has finally come to an end.
Miller has agreed to terms on a 7-year deal with the Canucks. This deal will net him a total of $56 million, saddling the Canucks with a yearly cap hit of $8 million up until the 2030 NHL season.
There is really no way to understate the gravity of this contract. This deal will have massive implications for the Canucks stretching into the next decade and this deal also serves as the first real landmark decision in the Allvin Rutherford era.
Sure the new management group has been through an entry draft, sure they signed a few free agents, but the duo has yet to pull the trigger on a decision of this magnitude, until now.
The Miller Deal is Everything
Miller, Miller, Miller. Canucks fans and media tried as they might to distract themselves with other talking points over the summer, but J.T.’s future in Vancouver was the subject that held the most weight. Everything else seems trivial when a player of Miller’s ability is sitting in limbo throughout an off-season.
At every stage of this offseason, the lack of direction in regards to Miller’s future was the most important lens to look at any and all other actions made by the club. It has been impossible to gauge the view that management has of this team, without knowing how they planned to move forward with their most valuable asset.
Selling Miller would indicate a rebuild or retool of sorts, keeping Miller would indicate confidence in the current structure of the team and a desire to win sooner rather than later.
Every other decision made this summer, be that the signing of highly sought-after free agent Andrei Kuzmenko, the retention of Bruce Boudreau as the team’s head coach, none of that could truly allow fans to know how management saw this team. Well, now we know.
Miller Held Value like Few Others
We here at StadiumChinatown.ca have not been shy about our stance on Miller as an asset to the Canucks. Miller had to go we thought, his value was too high, and this current Canucks team was too far from contention to justify keeping him.
Keeping a player like Miller, a player at the age of 29, who is going to demand a massive contract, due to his team-leading 99pt season, it just didn’t seem to make sense for the Canucks. The Canucks being a team very much still on the outside looking in when it comes to meaningful contention. That’s what we thought, and that’s what we still think.
Miller’s deal is at risk of being yet another large contract made at the wrong time. However, the difference with Miller’s deal compared to other large contracts that the Canucks have signed over the last half-decade is at least that Miller has proven to be able to produce on this team.
Don’t think for a second we’re comparing him to a Loui Eriksson in that respect. But money is money all the same, and if the Canucks are choosing to spend it on a player like Miller, they need to be, and clearly are confident that the steps they are taking now, buying and not selling, signing and not trading, are the best ways to get this team back to regular contention.
Miller by no means makes this team bad, but Miller makes this team committed to being good soon. Selling Miller to strengthen the team’s right defence spot, to restock the still sparse prospect cabinet would’ve left this team with a little bit more breathing room in terms of how they wished to structure their squad moving forward. By keeping Miller they have chosen to shorten their breath in that regard.
Let the Entertainment Begin
There is smart, then there is safe, there is risky, then there is fun. It will be a while until we know which of those words do and do not apply to the Canucks’ decision to re-sign Miller for as long as they have. But initially, despite how much of a wet blanket I have been throughout this whole article, if I had to pick a word that will apply first, that would be “fun”.
Keeping Miller around keeps the core of this team good, and at least in the short term, that is no doubt going to make for some extremely fun Hockey to watch. The question that remains as we have finally left the dog days of summer behind us, is how long will this decision to keep Miller remain “fun”, and will the longer-term safety net that his sale could’ve provided end up looking better in hindsight?
Now breathe Canucks fans, for at least a moment don’t stress about the future. Miller is staying and that’s no longer a hypothetical. Go enjoy your long weekend, the anticipation of a new season of Hockey will be here when you get back!