It’s been more than a week since the last juicy J.T. Miller trade rumour, which means we’re long overdue for another.
Expected by many to be traded this offseason by the Vancouver Canucks, Miller wasn’t moved at the draft. Six days clear of the start of free agency, the 29-year-old forward remains Canucks property.
Probably too soon to start calling him ‘Stand Pat’ Allvin, but things have moved slower than many thought for the new Canucks GM this offseason.
Canucks management has said all the right things about Miller, indicating that they’re quite willing to bring him back next season. But logic suggests that’s risky. Miller could hurt his value if he doesn’t play up to the level he played at last season, which was a career year for him. He could also suffer a serious injury, which would render the pending UFA worthless in a trade by the deadline.
They could re-sign him, but does committing long term to a forward who will be on the wrong side of 30 next year make sense given where the Canucks are in their cycle?
Despite scoring 99 points last season, the Canucks haven’t received a trade offer that met their standard to part with their leading scorer. But they did appear to come close with the New York Islanders on draft day.
A potential trade between the Canucks and Islanders appeared to fall apart on the draft floor, when New York traded their first-round pick to Montreal, instead of Vancouver, in the Alexander Romanov deal.
On the second day of the draft, Chris Botta, a former VP of Communications with the Islanders who worked for the organization for over 20 years, reported that Miller nearly ended up on Long Island.
While I’m not a reporter, I can share that after hearing enough specifics from multiple sources who reached out (and I trust), the Islanders and Van were close on a JT Miller deal. It blew up late. Canucks deny, and I understand why they need to deny, but it happened.
— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) July 8, 2022
Educated guess confirmed by the wizard @FriedgeHNIC. Geez did the Canucks play their JT Miller hand badly at the draft. JT will be moved somewhere this month.
— Chris Botta (@ChrisBottaNHL) July 11, 2022
As late as five days ago the deal was dead, according to Botta, but he now says it may be revived.
“If you were to ask me this… a week ago, I would have said ‘absolutely no’ to a J.T. Miller trade [to the Islanders],” Botta said in an interview with Hockey Night in New York.
Botta said that he believed any hard feelings between Islanders president of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello and Canucks management could be smoothed over.
#Isles Lou Lamoriello on whether there were trade discussions with Vancouver. "Ask Vancouver."
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) July 8, 2022
“Once Lou said ‘go ask Vancouver’… usually when that happens that means it’s dead. But Lou’s a gentleman. Just as importantly, Jim Rutherford, the president of hockey operations for the Vancouver Canucks, is a gentleman.”
“I’d like to think that… that’s a conversation that could be had again,” Botta added. “I still believe that there’s a trade there to be made.”
After going to the Conference Final in 2020 and 2021, the Isles missed the playoffs entirely last season. They’re one of the oldest teams in the NHL, and haven’t picked in the first round in three straight years.
Would they really be willing to part with their first-rounder again, for a fourth-straight season, in 2023?
Botta thinks so, calling this “desperate times” for Lamoriello. He also speculated that Oliver Wahlstrom, a 22-year-old winger that was picked 11th overall in the 2018 draft, could be parted with.
The Canucks, of course, are paper thin on defence — and would love to shore up their right side. Vancouver would surely love to get their hands on 22-year-old right-shot defenceman Noah Dobson. The Isles, however, may not be keen to move Dobson, given the 6-foot-4 blueliner is coming off a 51-point season.
The Islanders need to do something, but of course so do the Canucks. They’ve got 66 days before training camp begins — and the clock is ticking.