Just as everyone predicted, JT Miller is staying put in Vancouver.
The 29-year-old signed a seven-year, $56 million extension with the Canucks on Friday afternoon, theoretically keeping him in Vancouver until the 2029-30 season.
Miller’s deal reportedly includes a no-movement clause in the first four years of the deal, which turns into a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.
Here are seven thoughts after Miller signed the second biggest deal in Canucks history, trailing only Roberto Luongo and his 12-year, $64 million contract.
1. Canucks are absolutely loaded at centre
There aren’t many teams in the NHL with a better 1-2-3 punch at centre than the Canucks.
If Bruce Boudreau does keep Miller at centre long-term, then this club will arguably have two first-liners and a second-line pivot playing down the middle every single night.
That’s going to be important based on what surrounds the Canucks in the Pacific. McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins ain’t so bad, while Calgary actually improved in that department during the offseason with the addition of Nazem Kadri to complement Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund.
2. Despite complications, AAV is a short-term bargain
Eight million per season for a guy who just posted 99 points? Not bad...
That certainly looks like after Buffalo gave Tage Thompson seven years with a $7.14 AAV after one good season. Jeff Skinner vibes, anyone?
Shouldn't the lesson there be how the contracts look for all the guys in their 30s...— Taj (@taj1944) September 2, 2022
3. Seven years is too long
There’s a very slim chance that this deal looks good later in the 2020s.
Dom Luszczyszyn’s GSVA model predicts that Miller should provide first-line value to the Canucks for four more seasons.
After that, watch out.
Even with rosy optimism, it’s hard to see Miller being a go-to impact player after the age of 35. Blake Wheeler, who stands out as one of Miller’s best comparables, has started to see his game slide now that he’s at the age-35 plateau.
4. Summer shenanigans changed Miller’s market
I remember getting a little pushback when I said after the trade deadline that the Canucks missed their best chance to trade Miller.
Chock one up for ol’ Beggsy.
The market for impact forwards cratered this offseason, thanks to salary cap implications which forced teams like the Vegas Golden Knights and Columbus Blue Jackets to trade away guys like Max Pacioretty and Oliver Bjorkstrand for pennies on the dollar.
Or, in Pacioretty’s case, literally for nothing.
Then, after guys like Thompson and Nazem Kadri both signed seven-year deals (especially Kadri), it became increasingly obvious that the Canucks needed to extend Miller beyond their comfort zone if they wanted to keep him.
I think three things became obvious to the Canucks as the offseason unfolded.
- They weren’t going to get a premium return for Miller.
- They needed to extend him for at least seven years to keep him.
- They didn’t want the circus of him entering the season unsigned.
And voila, you have a flawed extension now in place.
5. Win-now mode begins
Are the Canucks ready to contend for the Stanley Cup?
It’s a semi-laughable question, but Miller’s extension signals that win-now mode starts, well, now.
The core building blocks, Pettersson, Hughes and Demko, aren’t going anywhere. Brock Boeser was just extended, with captain Horvat soon to follow. Guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Tucker Poolman, Conor Garland and Ilya Mikheyev are locked up long-term, while Tyler Myers, Tanner Pearson and Jason Dickinson all have two years left of their current deals.
In short, there’s a lot of dollars committed to players, and a massive lack of flexibility.
We’ve seen this offseason how hard it is to clear cap space. And, even if the cap significantly increases after 2023-24, the Canucks will need to give Petey a raise, allocate dollars to a Demko raise while finding a replacement for Myers, if they haven’t done so already.
Now that the Canucks have committed to Miller, they have to go for it.
This team isn’t bad enough to bottom out (barring significant injuries). They’re in the mushy middle at worst.
6. Something’s gotta give
Now, with all these significant cap commitments, what does it mean for next season when Miler’s extension kicks in?
Well, in short, something’s gotta give.
Kuzmenko is the Canucks’ biggest UFA heading into next summer (assuming Horvat signs). After that, Nils Hoglander and Travis Dermott are the next guys that would need extensions.
The chart below makes some relatively rosy assumptions for the Canucks from a cap perspective.
- Bo Horvat ain’t getting less than Tape Thompson, but his cap hit is only slightly higher at $7.25 million per season on an eight-year deal.
- Nils Hoglander continues to struggle but shows enough to earn an Owen Tippett-level extension worth $1.5 million.
- Travis Dermott provides solid third pair value, worth about Olli Maatta new contract ($2.25 million per season).
- Andrei Kuzmenko provides adequate middle-six value, and signs what Alex Barbanov got with the San Jose Sharks this summer (two years, $2.5 million per season).
Even with these relatively optimistic assumptions, the Canucks are just barely below the cap with an incomplete roster.
While their centre depth and top nine look incredible, that defence is still a glaring weak spot.
Because of their lacklustre blueline and abundance of pricey cap commitments, it seems inevitable that something’s gotta give before the start of next season.
7. What a week for Miller
Lost in all the hoopla of “what does this Miller contract mean for the Canucks” is that Miller is a human, and he just had one of the most life-changing weeks of his life.
Not only did he sign a contract with $56 million US dollars, but he and his wife Natalie also welcomed their third child into the world just one day prior.
Say what you will about Miller’s age and contract, but he was the engine that drove the Canucks last season when most of the team looked lost.
He’s been one of the best players in the NHL since joining Vancouver, and the guy deserves to cash in.