Move It or Lose It. J.T. Miller Trade Paramount for Canucks

By: Brayden Fengler / June 4, 2022  

Have you ever seen that gif of the cartoon rage typing on their keyboard with such intensity that their fingers, hands, and whole arms progressively disintegrate until they are left banging their head against their keyboard? That’s how it’s felt over this past year to be in favour of a J.T. Miller trade.

The dream situation in terms of the return that J.T. could’ve brought, would’ve been if he was traded before this season’s trade deadline. The wealth of pieces that could’ve been obtained for a player like Miller, having a year like he was having, with a year still left on his term, oh boy you can almost hear the sounds of the prospect cabinet being stocked.

However, Miller’s value was actually a part of the reason why orchestrating a successful trade with him was difficult to do at the deadline. The value Miller demanded was likely higher than what any team could’ve reasonably been expected to pay. Miller wouldn’t have been just simply a rental player, a prospective buyer would have Miller for an entire additional season and perhaps another playoff run.

That is value that the Canucks clearly knew they had, and thankfully they did not settle for anything less before this year’s deadline. Unfortunately, but expectedly, Miller’s value will only go down as he heads into next season, if he remains productive, he could still be a valuable rental acquisition for a team and fetch a decent price.

But that value decreases each game Miller plays, especially if god forbid he doesn’t continue his ungodly production pace from last season. The Canucks need to move Miller sooner than later if they want to cash in on as much trade value as possible.

Miller Topped the Tables

Miller’s performance over the last season was of course nothing short of astounding. He had a career year, recording 99 points with 32 goals and 67 assists. The best year he had before this one was his first year with the Canucks in 2019-20 when Miller earned himself 72 points on the campaign. 

After a year like Miller had, it can be easy to think that Miller is too good of a player to let go, but that is exactly why the Canucks need to move him because the 29-year-old’s cachet has never been higher. Miller’s performance can demand a return that not all players of his age bracket can normally pull for their team.

On the flip side, a player like Miller, at his age, with the production numbers he’s had, will no doubt be looking for a deal that allows him to cash in a steady paycheck for many years to come. Whether that’s on the Canucks or another team, someone will soon be giving Miller a massive payday.

The first few years of that payday are going to be the most beneficial for both team and player, but after that, when Miller is pushing into his mid-30’s there is no telling if his value will hold. Not every player will turn into a Loui Eriksson the moment they are signed to a long-term deal, but not every player can keep their quality up for the life of that deal either, especially as move into their 30s.

Even though their production will likely dip in the back half of a lengthy deal, players like Miller are always looking for term as close to that number as possible. GMs often take these deals, because they simply can’t acquire the player without agreeing to overdo the term to some degree.

But what makes these deals good or bad for the teams, in the long run, is if the GM is able to budget for the cap constraint that the fading star may cause down the road. For the Canucks, this is a path that they’ve walked down before and should avoid at all costs.

Trades That Make You Think

What could the Canucks realistically hope to get in return for a J.T. Miller? Well, it should be nothing short of a spectacular haul. J.T. could still have a place on this team, but what he could bring in potential futures, is an option that the Canucks should be aggressively exploring first. 

Claude Giroux was traded at this year’s deadline, from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Owen Tippett, a first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft or 2025 NHL Draft, and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. That trade included a current prospect, a first-round pick, and a third-round pick.

That’s not bad, not bad at all considering Claude Giroux was a rental player. The Giroux deal did also include Connor Bunnaman and German Rubtsov, and a fifth-round pick in the 2024 draft heading to Florida, but Miller holds a point differential of +33 on Giroux this season, so it’s safe to say that Miller’s value wouldn’t require the Canucks to package as much in a trade like Giroux’s. Not to mention the fact that Miller has a whole season left on his contract. 

Even just looking at the first real trade that this new Canucks regime made in Tyler Motte to New York, should get Canuck fans thinking about what could be gained from a Miller trade. Motte was an invaluable player to the Canucks, different than Miller in many ways but nonetheless effective in a more subtle capacity.

Motte returned a fourth-round pick for his departure on an expiring deal, if a player like Motte on the last year of his deal can at minimum get the Canucks a pick in the top half of the draft, then a pick like that should only just be the cherry on top of an otherwise loaded plate of assets that a player like Miller could get out of another team. 

With Miller Off The Books

If Miller is moved without salary retained, that takes $5,250,000 off of the Canucks books for this coming season. Spent wisely that is 2-3 real difference-makers that could be added to this team’s lineup. Even looking at what might be available in free agency, it’s easy to see how Miller’s absence could allow the team to afford some good depth on the open market.

Look at Valeri Nichushkin, currently playing out of his mind this year for Colorado. Has yet to re-sign with the team (but still very well could). He’s bound to have earned himself a pay raise with his career-high 52-point production this year. But even still, Nichuskin is only currently holding a $2,500,000 AAV.

If the Canucks could get him for an AAV maybe just a million more than his current deal that still leaves the team with just under 2 million extra dollars to play with from the money that Miller takes off the books.

If it’s defence the Canucks want, they could try to go the route of a John Klingberg or a Josh Manson if available, both sit with just over a 4 mill AAV and if the Canucks can remove a Tyler Myers or any other redundant money off the books then perhaps the absence of Miller could allow them to bolster the right side of both their defence and their forwards at the same time.

Stock that Cabinets

The Canucks have the chance to add depth to their current lineup and fill their pockets with prospects at the same time if they let go of Miller. It’s hard to be wishing that they kick the team’s leader in points to the curb, but as we all saw this season, Miller can’t do it alone.

What’s the use of having a powerhouse like Miller if he isn’t put with a group that can make all the difference. It’s a better use of the Canucks’ resources for them to cash in on the obvious success of a player like Miller and use what he brings in return to build a more balanced team. 

Don’t Need to Rush

Miller is a player that the old management group would no doubt be planning to re-sign. With Benning at the helm, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Miller signing an overpriced 6-8-year-deal that results in Miller dropping off after the third season on that deal and creating an all too familiar cap hell for this team.

Thankfully though this regime is not that regime, it’s clear from comments made by Alvin and Rutherford that they like Miller and are open to re-signing him for the right price but aren’t going to settle for a price that doesn’t make sense.

From my vantage point, the price of re-signing Miller would have to be damn near-free for the Canucks to not cash in their winning poker chip that is #9. The prospects, picks, and cap flexibility, that could come from a Miller trade, is just too hard to put a price on.

Miller is a great player and in a different world where the Canucks were a near playoff miss for all the right reasons, I’d say that the Canucks should hold on to him as tight as they can.

But in this world, where the Canucks are only just starting to correct the skid that has been the last 8 years, It’s just too risky to let J.T. Miller stay on board, and miss out on the stability his absence could bring.