Canucks Must Make Roster Decisions Ahead of Trade Deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a month away, and rumors are flying left, right, and centre as teams start to figure out whether they will be buyers or sellers. For the Vancouver Canucks, they have been one of the main focal points involving said rumors and trade talk. They must make roster decisions ahead of the trade deadline on March 21st.

The Canucks have really pulled themselves back up after starting the campaign 8-15-1 under former head coach Travis Green. As of right now, they sit just five points out of a playoff position and have significantly improved under head coach Bruce Boudreau. The decisions will need to come soon regarding their current scoring leader J.T. Miller, on other inquiries on players who weren’t originally intended to be dealt, and how it will all affect contracts for others moving forward.

The Decision on J.T. Miller

The first domino will be whether or not the Canucks get a good enough offer for Miller. He is one of the more sought-after players on the market, and for good reason. Along with hitting the 20-goal mark against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, he has 57 points in 51 games. He still has a year remaining on his contract, with a very reasonable cap hit of $5.25 million. There is reason to believe however that Miller fits into Vancouver’s future plans as well.

There have been links to the New York Rangers and more recently the Toronto Maple Leafs checking in on Miller. Rick Dhaliwal of The Athletic said Wednesday on Donnie and Dhali, The Team, “Toronto called Vancouver yesterday to see what it would take to get J.T. Miller. There’s a lot of talent there. They need a left-winger in their top-six. When you look at their top-six. J.T. Miller would be a fit with a lot of teams, but certainly in Toronto.” They also brought up the potential return and the prospect pool Toronto has. However according to Elliotte Friedman in his latest 32 Thoughts piece, “Toronto’s made it clear it desires to hold Matthew Knies and Topi Niemela — especially for rentals or shorter-term options.”

Related: Canucks Need Maple Leafs Prospect Niemelä Included in Any Miller Trade

It seems that the return will determine where, or if, Miller is moved by the 21st.

Additional Pieces Being Asked About

Outside of Miller, there have been other players inquired about as well. Rumors surrounding Luke Schenn, Conor Garland, and Jaroslav Halak have been circulating as well. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be moved or even be talked about, but Vancouver needs to know who they want to hang onto, and who they’re willing to part with if brought up in conversation by other teams.

Conor Garland Vancouver Canucks
Conor Garland, Vancouver Canucks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Leafs reportedly also checked in on Schenn, who seem to be looking to bolster their depth defensively as well. But Schenn has fit in quite well in Vancouver, carving out a role on this Canucks squad. With another year of term left on his deal with an average annual value (AAV) of just $800k, it would be interesting to see what the asking price would be on the 33-year old.

It seems like Garland just arrived in Vancouver last week, but his name has been put out there. In Thomas Drance’s latest piece, he breaks down the cases for trading and keeping certain players, including Garland, stating, “Garland is 25, only a year older than Boeser, meaning he’s young enough to be part of the core the Canucks build around. On the ice, his value far exceeds what the basic point totals — 26 points in 44 games — rate him at. Tack on the fact that Garland is locked up for another four years after this one at a team-friendly $4.95 million cap hit and one could make a compelling case to retain him.” (“Trade, keep or extend: What should the Canucks do with J.T. Miller, Tyler Motte, Brock Boeser and Conor Garland?”, The Athletic, February 16th).

Unless it’s a mammoth offer the Canucks can’t refuse, Garland will remain a Canuck.

Contract Negotiations For Next Season

Another thought for consideration is the moves made that will correspond with the contract negotiations for next season in Vancouver, most notably with pending restricted free agent (RFA) Brock Boeser. While an extension is very possible, Boeser is aware of the trade rumors. “It’s not really a worry of mine. I’m a big believer in saying whatever happens happens. I’ve said what I want to say about how much this organization means to me”, he told Sportsnet 650 earlier this week.

The big question that comes into play is what the cap hit for Boeser’s next contract will be. Nick Kypreos on Tim & Friends thinks if it gets to the $7.5 million to $8 million range, he should go somewhere else. “Let somebody else go out there and spend $7.5M-$8M a year on Brock Boeser, like a New Jersey, like a Buffalo, but I don’t think it’s going to be in Vancouver.”

Brock Boeser Vancouver Canucks
Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

That being said, since Boudreau took over back in December, Boeser is currently playing at a 36-goal, 66-point pace over an 82 game span, scoring 11 goals and adding nine assists across 25 games. He just turned 25 years old and was a first-round draft pick of the organization and has been a part of the core Vancouver has been building towards. If Miller is dealt, the Boeser contract is much simpler. Similar to Garland, unless a monumental offer is submitted for Boeser, don’t expect him to be dealt.

These rumors and takes won’t be slowing down anytime soon, so the decisions of who to keep and who to move need to be made quickly for general manager Patrik Allvin and assistant GM Émilie Castonguay.

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