Photo: Hockey Wilderness
“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.
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)
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