NHL Rumor Mill – June 25, 2022
Speculation is growing suggesting the Canucks could trade J.T. Miller. Could the Capitals or Penguins be among the suitors? Find out in today’s NHL rumor mill.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston cited CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal reporting the Vancouver Canucks are once again listening to trade offers. He added he checked with the 29-year-old center’s representatives, who weren’t surprised by the news.
Miller is a year away from unrestricted free agent eligibility. He’s coming off a career-best 99-point performance this season. He carries a $5.25 million cap hit on his current contract and is in line for a big pay raise.
Johnston spoke with Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford, who indicated the club would like to keep Miller, However, he warned that it might not make sense for both sides. “We’d like to do it but we’ve got to be careful,” said Rutherford.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller was a fixture in this season’s rumor mill leading up to the March trade deadline. The Canucks retained him in part because they were still jockeying for a playoff berth.
It doesn’t hurt to gauge Miller’s value in the trade market but it doesn’t mean he’s certain to be moved. Nevertheless, if the cost of re-signing him proves too high or if he’d prefer to test next summer’s trade market, it’s best to move him this summer (preferably before free agency opens on July 13) when teams have the cap space and the willingness to make deals for players like him.
Better to move Miller for the best possible return now than have his eventual departure hang over the Canucks next season. It would be an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction for him and the team.
There’s no guarantee hanging onto Miller for the trade deadline will result in a better return. If he gets injured, his value plummets. If it’s a season-ending injury, they’ll at worst lose him for nothing to free agency next July or at best get a conditional draft pick if they shop his rights before the free-agent market opens.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Sammi Silber cites Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman telling Dhaliwal that the Washington Capitals have been linked to Miller and Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri. The Capitals are searching for a suitable replacement for Nicklas Backstrom, whose future is in doubt after undergoing potential career-ending hip resurfacing surgery.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller would be the better choice for the Capitals. He’s locked in for one more season at $5.25 million. Kadri is slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 13 and in line for a big raise over his current $4.5 million annual average value.
Whether the Capitals can afford the Canucks’ asking price is another matter. I suspect they’ll want a first-round pick or a top prospect plus a young, promising NHL player in return.
Replacing Backstrom isn’t the only issue facing the Capitals this summer. Silber points out they need a proven starting goaltender, a scoring winger and blueline depth.
VANCOUVER HOCKEY NOW: Rob Simpson reports the New Jersey Devils have been mentioned as a suitor for Miller. They’re willing to part with their 2022 first-round pick (second overall) for the right price. He also mentioned the Pittsburgh Penguins could be interested if Evgeni Malkin departs via free agency next month.
Simpson suggested Capitals winger Conor Sheary might be enticing to the Canucks brass, as they remember him well from their days with the Penguins. The Caps also have a right-shot prospect defenseman in Coquitlam native Vincent Iorio who could interest them.
Penguins defenseman John Marino could be an attractive option for the Canucks. Winger Kasperi Kapanen could be another option.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Miller can play wing or center, which could work for the Devils in their quest for an impact player to play alongside their young forwards. However, they might prefer assurances they can re-sign Miller before parting with that second-overall pick. Otherwise, they risk losing him for nothing next summer.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m skeptical that the Capitals have enough to offer up to the Canucks for Miller. Rutherford and GM Patrik Allvin know the Penguins’ depth pretty well from their tenures there. Whether a deal can be made there, however, is another matter.