Why Capitals Should Pursue Acquiring Canucks’ J.T. Miller

Photo: Hockey Wilderness

The Washington Capitals are in need of a center after Nicklas Backstrom underwent surgery to resurface his left hip and are reportedly interested in acquiring J.T. Miller from the Vancouver Canucks.

“He’s coming off a career year, he’s a very good player, players like him are hard to find that can put up points and they’re strong, they’re physical, and things like that,” Canucks president Jim Rutherford said in a recent radio interview, according to CanucksArmy. “But we’re going to negotiate with his agent this offseason, and we’re going to negotiate [a deal] that works for the Canucks, not only for now but long term. If both sides can come to an agreement, then J.T. Miller will be here long term.”

“If the numbers get out of whack, then we have to make a non-emotional decision and make a tough decision that won’t be popular with anybody. And try to get assets that are going to help this franchise long term,” he continued.

Here are five reasons why the Capitals should try to acquire Miller:

Best Center Available

After setting career-highs in goals (32 – tied for 36th in NHL), assists (67 – sixth), and points (99 – ninth) in 80 games last season, Miller is almost certainly the best man you can get to step in for Backstrom. He also earned a 51.03% five-on-five expected goals-for percentage and a 54.1% faceoff-winning rate.

Proven And Consistent

While Miller had a career season, it did not just come out of the blue as he has averaged at least .41 assists-per-game and .63 points-per-game in each of the past five seasons, including .58 assists-per-game and .87 points-per-game (two of which coming above a point-per-game), respectively, in each of his three seasons in Vancouver.

His consistency has not just been for five seasons as Miller has hit the double-digit goal pleateau and 43-point mark in each of his eight full NHL seasons.

Very Good Contract

Miller carries a very team-friendly $5.25 million cap hit, though for just one more season before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency. If Backstrom doesn’t play again (which is a possibility), the Capitals should have enough money to re-sign Miller to a contract extension beyond that, though.

Versatility

While Miller is a natural center, he has also played on the left wing with the Canucks, Tampa Bay Lightning, and New York Rangers.

With Connor McMichael and Aliaksei Protas, who are both natural centers, looking to transition to full-time NHL players in 2022-23, having Miller would give the Capitals comfort to try either and/or both players at second-line center and if neither McMichael or Protas can take that step, Miller can skate in that spot.

Miller also averaged 3:19 on the power play and 2:05 on the penalty kill last season, both of which led Canucks forwards.

As Big An Acquisition The Capitals Can Get With Window Closing

After captain Alex Ovechkin had his best season in a dozen years, center Evgeny Kuznetsov was nearly a point-per-game player, and defenseman John Carlson had a strong finish to last season, the Capitals should have enough in the tank to give it at least one more kick at the can with their current core.

But after four straight first-round exits in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the team could use a shake up and acquiring a player like Miller would bolster the team’s chances of having success. Especially with Backstrom and right-wing Tom Wilson (will be out until between Thanksgiving and the NHL All-Star Break with a torn ACL), the Capitals could use some more help up front and Miller would arguably be an upgrade over either injured forward.

(Note: card denotes age prior to start of 2021-22 season)

Trade Value

The site added that Miller will likely cost a first-round pick, a second-round pick, a defensive prospect, and young roster player to acquire via trade. Lucas Johansen and goaltender Vitek Vanecek or right-wing Brett Leason could be part of the package that heads to the Pacific Northwest to lure the 29-year-old to the nation’s capital. 

With Ovechkin and Carlson still on the roster, the Capitals are still expected to remain competitive but will need to add reinforcements this offseason to do so. At center, there are not many, if any better options than Miller.

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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17 Responses to Why Capitals Should Pursue Acquiring Canucks’ J.T. Miller

  1. GR+in+430 says:

    Again, the numbers beyond 22-23 only makes sense if Backstrom is done and the kid defensemen aren’t all traded away and actually become solid NHL players.

    The bottom line is that after 22-23 the Caps could be in total rebuild mode, with only 10 players currently under contract (including 1 current NHL defenseman and zero NHL goalies) and a very good possibility that one of those 10 is retired, leaving only 9.

    Adding Miller would be great, but if they have to mortgage the future to do so then they are going to lose a lot of games for at least a couple of years. Which may happen anyway, but if they are going to blow up the roster soon, then trading 4 top young assets now for a guy who will be in his 30s (at least) by the time the Caps are competitive again makes no sense. This is yet another reason why trading draft picks for rentals over the past several years and thus leaving a very shallow prospect pool has left the Caps in a precarious position.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with this post. The trade cost for Miller is too high (if the article is accurate). There are some UFAs available that won’t cost draft picks or prospects.

    • Franky619 says:

      How would making the team better with Miller mean losing a lot of games. Trading draft picks which will probably not make the nhl or be as good as Miller is won’t make the team worst. It’s not as if the Caps were picking top 10. And they have no blue chip prospect, Lapierre and Mcmicheal maybe in a couple years. Most caps prospect are average in the AHL, they don’t have any top pairing D or top line forwards.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Kadri 4x7M if they can get it done

  3. Lance says:

    JT Miller is a heck of a player and I’d love to see him on the Caps.

    That said, I think BMac, Mahoney & the scouts are better off actively hunting for the Capitals’ next #1 center. McMichael and LaPierre are great picks in that direction. Maybe one or both or them reach true #1C status but, of course, we can’t count on that.

    Are the Caps aware of a potential #1C in this year’s draft? I’ve been looking at the prospects and it doesn’t look there are a lot of superstars this year. But maybe there’s a guy they like and could trade up into the top 13 and get that guy. Or maybe trade this year’s #1 to a team for their #1 next year and hope it turns into a top 10 pick. That Caps traded Dimitri Kristich and Byron Dafoe for the Kings’ #1 pick in 1996. The pick became #4 overall which was awesome but that pick, Alexander Volchkov, bombed. It turned out to be a terrible trade. 2 good NHLers for nothing. But that idea could work if you draft the right player.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      If I recall, you prefer going into rebuild now (no playoff push in Ovechkin’s final years). If that’s the case, then yes, play all prospects now.

      • Lance says:

        Well, we owe so much to Ovie that we’re not gonna totally dump our vets and rebuild with picks. That’s just not gonna happen.

        My guess is BMac does acquire a player along the lines of JT Miller to fill in for Backstrom. I don’t know if BMac will “reload” for the upcoming season only or if he’ll sign a guy like that long term.

        My view is that we can bring up 2 or 3 guys from Hershey (Snively, Pilon, Protas, Leason, Johanson) and have just as good of a chance as we did last year. A small chance to go on a run. But at least it’s a chance. I’d try to bring in a top 6 guy on a short-term deal without trading away significant picks or prospects. That means a UFA or a trade involving one of our bigger contracts going out.

        I just think we have to find our next batch of stars and the draft is almost always the way ypu get thise guys.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I essentially agree with what you’re saying. I think Johansen has a spot to lose on the opening night roster. I also see Snively, who had a scorching hot,season, all season, on the opening night roster. McMichael as well.

          Leason could fill in for Willy, assuming Capitals don’t want to procure a right-winger in free agency.

        • Franky619 says:

          Snively, Protas, Pilon, Leason really? They are gonna replace Backstrom and Wilson with a bunch of 4th liner, 3rd on a good day. Give Vancouver anything they want even Lapierre if it allows them to land a player like Miller and extend him for a couple years. He’s an upgrade over Backstrom and even Kuznetsov. Big, Fast, Gritty good on face off good scorer good playmaker, these player are’nt available very often and the Caps sure are’nt getting one nhl ready drafting 20th.

  4. Lance says:

    I’m thinking most Cup champs get their stars in the draft and make a few key trades.

    Hawks drafted Toews and Kane.
    Pens drafted Crosby, Malkin and Fleury.
    Caps drafted Ovie, Backstrom, Carlson, Holtby and Kuzy.
    Blues drafted Peitrangelo, Tarasenko and Binnington.
    Bolts drafted Stamkos, Hedman, Point, Kucherov, Vasilevsky (dang!)
    Ava drafted Mackinnon, Makar, Landeskog, Rantanan (dang!)

    We probably don’t have our next Kuzy, Backstrom, etc. at this point. We have solid NHLers coming but no blue chip prospects. While I’d love to see JT Miller playing with the Caps I think over the long-term trading for Miller might cost us a future star player or two. One might argue that JT Miller could he that future star center for the Caps but for me its too costly and too risky at his age. He’s not old now but in 3 years he might start to decline. Too risky for me. I’d rather nab more picks and roll with more prospects from Hershey.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Depends who the prospects are, and if you consider them “stars”. Miller is a proven player with near-equal offensive opponent as Backstrom, and 5-years younger.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You keep listing Miller as a right wing, but he’s a C/LW.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Do it!

  7. Eric Lord says:

    Vancouver will not have interest in Vanecek. They are set in goal with Demko. Johansen & Leason going back won’t be enough to get Miller. The Canucks will want higher upside than that. At the trade deadline last season, they asked Boston for Fabian Lysell (the Bruins #1 prospect) and Brandon Carlo (an established d-man), as well as a first round pick. While the asking price might be a little less than that now, I don’t see the Canucks accepting a package involving 2 players with a total of 37 NHL games played. They’ll get better offers from other teams

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