4 Most Logicial Destinations for Canucks’ J.T. Miller

Despite a career season in 2021-22, J.T. Miller might be finding himself wearing a new uniform before the start of next season. It seems the trade market is heating up for his services.

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Although Miller has one season left on his friendly contract at $5.25 million, things are looking more and more likely that the cost to keep him beyond next season will be too much for the Canucks to shell out. With three defensemen already making at least $6 million in Quinn Hughes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers plus undetermined situations in Bo Horvat and Brock Boeser to figure out, Miller appears to be a cap casualty.

If they were to meet Miller’s term and asking price, it would put a strain on other parts of the team. Given what his value would be on the open market, it’s a no brainer to at least listen to what teams are offering. The Canucks would get valuable pieces back in any trade package. TSN’s Darren Dreger said recently that the trade market for Miller was heating up.

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Similar to what we did recently with Maple Leafs’ goalie Jack Campbell, we are going to explore four logical destinations for Miller should a trade come about. First we need to set the scene to determine the kind of places he would be interested in going to. It is important to note that Miller does not have trade protection in his final year. He can go anywhere the Canucks can find a fair deal.

Related: 3 Most Logical Destinations for Maple Leafs’ Jack Campbell

Setting the Scene

Miller will turn 30 in March and most likely will have one more opportunity to get a huge payday. The first thing teams wanting to trade for him will need to consider is his annual cost and can they fit him in over a lengthy term? He will command north of $8 million on the open market.

J.T. Miller Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller will soon be due a huge payday. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The other thing that needs considered is the opportunity presented. Ideally, teams looking to acquire Miller would have a need for a top-six center and is either competing or close to competing for the Stanley Cup. With so many questions surrounding the Canucks, it’s hard to pinpoint just how close they are to being a true contender.

In looking at the landscape, there are four teams that have both a need for a top-six center and would consider themselves all-in this season and beyond. Who are these four teams?

Washington Capitals

Let’s start with the super obvious one. Given the recent hip resurfacing surgery to star center Nicklas Backstrom, it’s unknown not only how long he’ll be out, but if he’ll ever be able to return. Given the veterans on the team, they are in win-now mode.

Adding an important piece like Miller would fit like a glove. Backstrom and his $9.2 million cap hit can land in LTIR allowing the Capitals room to make this move. In this world, Miller and Evgeny Kuznetsov would be your two centers. Miller and Ovechkin would conceivably play on the same line.

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The only prevailing issue from a Capitals’ standpoint is the cap implications and some outstanding decisions they need to make. They have to decide on their goaltending as both Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov need new deals this offseason. Then after next season, the Capitals have decisions to make about their defense as John Carlson is the only current defender on the roster signed for 2023-24.

In the end, this team is all-in so long as Ovechkin is there. Miller would provide an admirable replacement for Backstrom and the Capitals would still be a formidable contender. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said he has heard Miller’s name already connected to the Capitals. He said this to the Donnie and Dhali show.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals
As long as Alex Ovechkin is around, the Capitals are all-in. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As for part of a return, would the Canucks value prospect Hendrix Lapierre? They do need younger, higher-end prospects in their organization.

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins have several questions to face this offseason. Not the least of them is the status of star center Evgeni Malkin. If things didn’t come together here, the Penguins would have an immediate opening for a top-six center. Enter Miller.

Not only enter Miller, enter hometown player Miller. Miller is originally from East Palestine, OH, about an hour’s drive from downtown Pittsburgh.

But more importantly, Miller would add a significant piece to the Penguins as they’re still chasing Cups with Sidney Crosby’s career winding down. Malkin’s status is unclear especially given that they need to hammer out a new deal for star defenseman Kris Letang as well. It’s highly unlikely the Penguins can keep both unless they move off of what they’re asking for.

From a Canucks’ standpoint, they’ve had interest in defenseman John Marino in the past. Perhaps they try to include him in any package.

Boston Bruins

Another year, another need for a top-six center. The Bruins have yet to successfully replace David Krejci since he went overseas.

With reports out there that Patrice Bergeron is coming back to the Bruins, they could be down to their final shot going for the Cup with this core. As long as Bergeron is around, they are all-in.

A 1-2 punch in the middle of Bergeron and Miller would make the Bruins formidable again. Not only that, Miller should be able to get more out of players like Taylor Hall. The Bruins need a second line who can be dangerous. That’s been missing for them.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron’s imminent return could pave the way for a big trade. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The issue with the Bruins like most teams is the cap. If they were to make this deal work, not only would good prospects have to be included but money would have to go the other way too. They have under $3 million in space without Bergeron’s new contract on the books. While it would be tricky, the Bruins can never be ruled out especially when a potential top-six center is available. They won’t hesitate to make the move. The one interesting thing to watch is their coaching hire and then how they proceed with the upcoming season.

Would the Canucks value a player like Jack Studnicka in a trade should it happen?

New York Rangers

Speaking of homecomings, Miller could end up back with the team he was on before joining the Canucks. With Ryan Strome’s and Andrew Copp’s futures both uncertain at best, the Rangers have a need for a center. But with so many decisions looming, could they make the cap work beyond next season?

After this past season falling in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Rangers know they’re close. With that will come a team looking to finish the deal in the near future. If they hope to do that, they must find a top-six center to compliment Mika Zibanejad.

The Rangers have the other pieces in place. They think they can win the Cup next season. If they were to do this deal, it most likely would be for one year trying to win it all. They have key players they need to sign soon such as Alexis Lafreniere so a longer-term deal for Miller in new York doesn’t seem to make sense.

The Canucks would love to add players like prospect Nils Lundkvist or perhaps even Kaapo Kakko. This one will be super interesting to watch.

Miller is primed to give someone a bargain of a deal for 2022-23 and then it gets interesting. Some teams can make it work. Others would take their swing for one season. No matter what, Miller is in a good spot. The Canucks will have to decide if incoming offers are good enough. They do not want to lose him for nothing. This feels like a draft-day deal waiting to happen at this pace.