Welcome to my new series “2022 Offseason Trade Targets” where we’ll examine several teams the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in doing business with this summer. From minor moves to blockbuster deals, I’ll cover them all as we dive into some potential trade options for general manager (GM) Kyle Dubas.
For today’s piece we head to western Canada to examine some Maple Leafs targets from the Vancouver Canucks, a team that had more trade rumors floating around their roster than any other team in 2021-22. This is due in large part to Jim Rutherford taking over as president of hockey operations, as he’s never shy to make a bold trade or changes to a roster. It’s no secret the Canucks are actively looking to make adjustments to their personnel and have done some recent business with the Maple Leafs, so I’ll be curious to see what unfolds this summer. If an offseason deal goes down between these two franchises, here are two Vancouver forwards fans should expect to see involved.
If there was a forward who could be inserted into the Maple Leafs’ lineup and make the most impact next season, look no further than J.T. Miller of the Canucks. The 29-year-old does it all as he can play in all situations, brings it every night, produces offensively and has the killer instinct in him to push himself and his teammates in the big moments.
In 2021-22, Miller finished with a career-high 99 points in 80 games including 32 goals. He possess Stanley Cup Playoff experience from his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Rangers, and he’s shown recently with the Canucks, he just wants to win and battle for his teammates. Vancouver is in a tough spot as they have salary-cap issues coming up this summer and next and tons of executives, including Dubas, likely have to team circled to see what type of moves they’re interested in making.
Miller is set to hit free agency in summer 2023, so if his agent and Canucks management are unable to agree to terms in the coming weeks, there’s certainly a higher potential of him getting traded before next season begins. Nothing new for the Canucks forward as he’s been a part of two blockbuster deals in the past to land in Tampa Bay and in Vancouver, after being selected in the first round by the Rangers back in 2015.
As far as the money is concerned, Miller is set to make $5.25 million in 2021-22. A little nugget of interesting information — when Miller was acquired by the Canucks, it was before his no-trade protection kicked in and Vancouver voided it upon his arrival, so now he holds nothing as far as trade protection goes.
Related: Maple Leafs’ 2022 Offseason Trade Targets: Chicago Blackhawks
The Maple Leafs don’t have a ton of money to spend this summer and with Jack Campbell unsigned at the moment, it’s certainly interesting times for Dubas and company. It feels like they will address their goaltending issues before making any major moves, but if they get their crease sorted out relatively soon, expect to see Toronto circling the trade waters to gauge the asking price on some impact players.
Miller is cost-effective this season and with the Maple Leafs’ solid prospects in their system, there’s certainly a deal to be made between these two active executives. British Columbia-native Alexander Kerfoot, prospects Nick Robertson and Joseph Woll are three players to keep an eye on here if trade talks pick up for Miller. Too much, Leafs Nation? Or, don’t care because you haven’t seen the second round in nearly two decades?
The Maple Leafs have been linked to Conor Garland for several seasons now and he’s the type of feisty forward the team could truly benefit from. Picture Colin Blackwell with a scoring touch as Garland and the Maple Leafs’ forward play a very similar style on the ice. This past season the Canucks forward was apparently one of the most discussed players on the trade market as a number of teams were interested in acquiring his services.
This past season Garland recorded 52 points in 77 games in his first season in Vancouver, and with the contract extensions needed for Miller and Brock Boeser, who is due a hefty raise, Garland and his $4.9 million annual salary through the 2025-26 season could be something Rutherford looks to move. The team is also trying to trade expensive defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who makes $7.26 million per season against the salary cap. Needless to say, Rutherford and his new formed executive team have a ton of work to do in Vancouver this offseason.
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Money is tight for both teams so a potential trade would likely be someone who comes off the books after next season for Vancouver and laced with Maple Leaf prospects as Vancouver has minimal potential in their organizational cupboards.
As we close another installment of “2022 Offseason Trade Targets” it’s no secret Leafs Nation should be keeping an eye on the Canucks when it comes to the Maple Leafs’ next big move. Dubas and Rutherford have a decorated history of making big trades, and Miller or Garland would be a great addition in Toronto. Money is tight for both franchises, but Dubas has a handful of prospects who are turning heads across the NHL. Is now the time to cash in?