It's been a tale of two seasons for the Vancouver Canucks, and that puts them in a tough spot with J.T. Miller. Under the guidance of old head coach Travis Green, the club limped out of the gate to the tune of an 8-15-2 start.
The team's best players, except for pretty much everyone besides Miller, all looked totally flat and the campaign was almost a lost cause six weeks in. But on Dec. 6, the Canucks cleaned house, bringing in Bruce Boudreau to try to salvage 2021-22. Vancouver has gone 10-3-1 since the shift, coming together as one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Yet the Canucks are only now at .500, a testament to just how hard it is to climb out of early-season holes. This turnaround presents new general manager Jim Rutherford a bit of a conundrum. MoneyPuck.com gives Vancouver a 17.6 percent chance to make the dance; a long shot but not impossible.
If the Canucks continue to win, it might be difficult to consider moving Miller, who is their sparkplug and has been their most consistent player, even when Green was behind the bench.
The reality is, though, that his value will likely never be higher. If Rutherford and Co. are considering some sort of retooling, it would have to begin by moving Miller ahead of the March 21 trade deadline. He is under contract through the end of 2023 at a team-friendly $5.25 million cap hit.
He's scored at nearly a point-per-game clip over the last three seasons, and high-end contending teams would likely pay a king's ransom for the forward's services. Prospect guru Scott Wheeler of The Athletic recently ranked Vancouver's prospect pool 28th. Trading Miller would go a long way toward changing that.
Let's take a look at a few places where the Ohio native could land.
New York Rangers
Until the New York Rangers secure the help that they've been looking for since Sammy Blais was injured in mid-November, they'll be in just about all trade rumors concerning forwards.
Frank Seravalli of Sportsnet recently spoke about Miller possibly landing with the Rangers on the Canucks Central podcast, stating the following (h/t to ForeverBlueshirts.com for the transcription):
"One of the teams that has really been all over J.T. Miller to bring him back is the New York Rangers. Are there younger pieces on the Rangers' roster that they’d be willing to part with rather than just draft picks? And how important would it be for them to be in a spot where they have that extra year of J.T. Miller and not have to sweat (what his next contract) looks like."
Rutherford is already on the record saying that he wants to help the Canucks get better in most areas. One has to assume that the GM wants to add a strong young player or two in any trade for Miller, which is why the Rangers make a lot of sense as a trade partner.
They could dangle 6'2", 202-pound defenseman Braden Schneider, for starters. The 20-year-old defenseman could skate alongside Quinn Hughes for the next decade-plus, cementing the top pairing in Vancouver for years to come.
The Vitali Kravtsov situation has yet to resolve itself after the 2018 ninth overall selection requested a trade in October after failing to make the Rangers out of camp. Rutherford wants to add scoring depth, and securing a skater like Kravtsov could give the Canucks that down the line.
Miller is a known commodity in New York after breaking into the league with the team back in 2012-13, and he'd be a great addition for the Rangers as they continue to play a bit above their heads in the Metropolitan Division.
For the last month or so, word on the street has been that the Colorado Avalanche could look to add defensive depth ahead of the deadline. Trading for some aging bottom-pairing defenseman is so tired, though. Do you know what would be wired instead?