Maple Leafs & Canucks Trade Could Produce Second-Half Blockbuster

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks are emerging as trade partners and these conversations could lead us all to an absolute blockbuster deal between the two clubs. Vancouver is gauging the trade market on some of their best players as they look for ways to re-stock their cupboards with young talent, meanwhile the other club in Toronto has a refreshed trade deadline strategy that involves getting to work before the others and not just focusing on rentals this time around.

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Hockey insider Pierre LeBrun from TSN recently mentioned on Insider Trading if any team is interested in Canucks forward J.T Miller, they will want to get their best offers in sooner than later. While it’s not a guarantee they move him, Vancouver’s management, led by president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford, are listening to offers for a number of reasons, some we’ll get into later. The Maple Leafs should be making a serious offer these next few weeks and if they put their best foot forward, the two clubs could provide fans with a blockbuster.

Miller’s Market Could Force a Trade From Canucks

The Canucks are listening to trade offers on their leading scoring for a number of reasons, and surely their fan base won’t agree with this entire list:

  • Miller is the oldest of their core forwards and the organization has a decision to make if they feel he’s going to be a part of what they’re building in Vancouver. They have a brand new management trio who will want to construct their own championship team.
  • The cupboards are bare in Vancouver as they don’t have a ton of depth in their pipeline. Moving their leading scorer would land them at least three assets for the future. Trading him now will result in the most return.
  • The offers may be too good to pass up. Contending teams love Miller’s game and adding him to their top six could send them over the hump, so the Canucks should be expecting some mega-offers to roll in.
Anaheim Ducks Carter Rowney Vancouver Canucks J.T. Miller-Maple Leafs & Canucks Trade Could Produce Second-Half Blockbuster
J.T Miller would be a perfect fit with the Toronto Maple Leafs (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

Miller has recorded 44 points in 41 games and is fresh off a hat trick in his last game. He’s an absolute gamer who loves to battle each and every night and is comprised of strength, skill, hard work and leadership qualities. The 28-year-old does not only lead his team in scoring, he leads their forward group in hits with 87 and he’s been a force in the faceoff circle, winning over 53 percent of his draws — certainly attributes that make him very appealing to other teams, including the Maple Leafs.

Toronto and Vancouver Executives Have Blockbuster History

When Rutherford was running the Pittsburgh Penguins, he pulled off trades on a very regular basis and one in particular stands out. Back in Aug. 2020, the Penguins and Maple Leafs completed a six-player trade, which also included a first-round pick heading to Toronto. The trade saw Pittsburgh receive Kasperi Kapanen, Pontus Aberg and Jesper Lindgren in exchange for what became the 15th-overall pick at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft along with Filip Hallander, David Warsofsky, and Evan Rodrigues, who eventually made his way back to Pittsburgh to have a breakout season in 2021-22.

Related: Maple Leafs’ 2022 Trade Targets on the Ottawa Senators

This deal gave the Penguins what they wanted in a top-six winger with speed and skill, meanwhile the Maple Leafs needed to shed some salary and wanted to land a first rounder for Kapanen, who was going to be stuck down their depth chart. The two executives were willing to meet each other’s asking price and work together to finalize a huge trade.

Maple Leafs’ Offer Could Stack Up Against the Rest

Dubas and company have done a great job in Toronto these past few seasons making sure to add young talent to their mix. The team has drafted well in later rounds and added some great players internationally and via the US college route. When it comes to acquiring Miller from the Canucks, it’s going to be a costly move — there’s no doubt at that — but to me it’s a trade they need to explore. Perhaps Dubas can spark another conversation with Rutherford around these three parts:

  1. Alexander Kerfoot
  2. Nick Robertson
  3. Rodion Amirov

Kerfoot is a Vancouver native and if he was to be traded, it’s likely heading back home is at the top of his list. He makes $2-million less than Miller for the rest of this season and next, and would give the Canucks a proven NHL talent to immediately insert into the lineup. He’s recorded 27 points in 39 games this season, and his speed and versatility would fit in nicely for Vancouver. We can’t forget here the team has been playing great since new head coach Bruce Boudreau took over and is only three points out of a playoff spot heading into action Saturday night. Trading Miller is about adding pieces for the future and that’s where the other pieces from Toronto come in.

Nick Robertson Toronto Maple Leafs-Maple Leafs & Canucks Trade Could Produce Second-Half Blockbuster
Nick Robertson is considered by some to be the Maple Leafs’ top prospect (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

Robertson and Amirov are two of the Maple Leafs’ top three prospects, both 20 years old and expected to develop into top-six forwards. One is a former second-round pick from 2019 who was a 55-goal scorer in junior and someone who has terrible luck as a pro. If it wasn’t for some bad timing with injuries, Robertson may be a regular in the Maple Leafs’ lineup this season. His work ethic and shot release give him a great chance at reaching his potential.

Meanwhile, Amirov was taken with the 15th pick by the Maple Leafs at the 2020 Draft, which they received in the previous Kapanen trade with Rutherford. Amirov is currently battling for ice-time in Russia and is a player the Leafs love because of his speed and smarts both with and without the puck.

Miller’s Salary Could Become a Hurdle for Maple Leafs

Toronto is cash strapped due to a number of expensive contracts and when it comes to adding Miller from the Canucks, the Maple Leafs would need to create roughly another $1.7 million under the cap. This could be done by including one of Justin Holl or Travis Dermott in this trade, or perhaps moving either of them in a separate deal. Both players have been available on the trade market since late 2021. Another interesting piece here is how Vancouver has rugged defenseman and ex-Maple Leaf Luke Schenn on their team only making $850,000 this season and signed for next. I’d be curious to see if this deal does materialize, if Dubas would inquire having the physical blueliner included.

Maple Leafs Need to Pounce Sooner Than Later

It’s not every day a player with Miller’s skill set becomes available on the trade market to the highest bidder and Dubas and company need to jump all over this in Toronto. They have the type of prospects to get this deal done and sending Kerfoot in return helps Vancouver right now, saves them money, and sends the player back home to play hockey in front of family and friends.

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To me, they should go all-in here. Auston Matthews is only signed for two-and-a-half more seasons and Dubas doesn’t have time to wait around for prospects to develop. You think Matthews is sitting up at night wondering when Amirov is going to be ready to join his wing? Instead, tell him one of his would-be Team USA Olympic teammates is joining the team in Toronto for at least the rest of this season and next and maybe you’ll get a reaction. Toronto needs to step up here and deliver.

At the end of the day, we have here two executives who have a decorated trade history together and two teams who could benefit from the other, on opposite sides of the NHL. Get your popcorn ready, Leafs Nation, we may have ourselves a second-half blockbuster on our hands.

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