Speculation: Columbus Might Be the Perfect Fit for JT Miller

By: Trent Leith / June 11, 2023  

Everything surrounding the Canucks lately seems to be quiet, there isn’t much happening and the rumour mill hasn’t started churning with anything new so far this summer.

Unlike the Canucks, the Columbus Blue Jackets have been wasting no time getting a kick start to their summer by making trades and shaking up the coaching staff. Firstly, the Jackets have all but announced that Mike Babcock will be the new head coach in Columbus. Jarmo Kekalainen is expected to make an official announcement after Babcock’s contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs expired on July 1st.

Following the new coach, the Jackets were involved in a massive three-team trade landing Ivan Provorov for the 22nd overall pick (previously owned by the LA Kings) in the 2023 draft. The Jackets added another top-four defender in Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils in a sign and trade that saw Severson sign an eight-year, $6.25M AAV deal in exchange for the Blue Jackets third-round pick at 80th overall.

There are clearly some glaring shortcomings on the Blue Jackets roster still, however and Jarmo Kekalainen’s butt has to be getting warm due to the hot seat he’s found himself in. Speculation around the league is that Kekalainen has to have some results and get his team back into the playoffs if he wants to continue on as GM of the Blue Jackets.

So why are we talking about this on a Canucks focused website? Well, despite Kekalainen’s efforts to jump-start his team, the Blue Jackets don’t have much centre depth. Down the middle, as things stand, the Blue Jackets have Boon Jenner, Jack Roslovic, Cole Sillinger and Sean Kuraly. If you want to not only make the playoffs but want a chance to win, the Blue Jackets are going to need more talent down the middle.

That’s where the Canucks come in. JT Miller is a player that has been rumoured to be trade bait for the Canucks, long before he signed his massive contract last off-season. Miller is a great player, arguably a top-three player on the team, but his age and term of his contract don’t fit the team’s competitive window. If Patrick Allvin wants to trade Miller any time in the next seven years, doing so before this July 1st will give him the best chance.

Miller has an NMC that kicks in with his new deal on July 1st, and in the fifth year of the contract, that changes to an NMC with a modified no-trade clause. If Allvin has any buyer’s remorse, this might be his last chance to get out from under the contract he signed.

Now it goes without saying JT Miller is a great player and likely still has several very productive years ahead of himself. But by the time the Canucks enter their contention window, JT Miller will likely be passed his prime and start to be an inefficient contract for the team.

So why would Kekalainen be interested? Well, NHL GMs are famous for making Hail Mary swings with little regard for their franchise’s future when they’re in the hot seat. If Kekalainen needs to make the playoffs this season to keep his job, he will likely be unconcerned about the back half of the JT Miller contract.

If JT found himself in Ohio, he would immediately become the Blue Jackets’ number-one centre and likely play between Patrick Laine and Johnny Gaudreau. That is a potential line that could light the league on fire if it jelled well together. As for other factors that could help facilitate a trade between the Jackets and the Canucks, The Blue Jackets still have their third overall pick in this year’s draft that they could dangle as a potential return. The Canucks also have their 11th overall that could be a part of the deal in some regard.

There is serious potential for this to be a win-win trade for both clubs based on where their respective GMs view their teams and their competitive cycles.