In hindsight, it’s no surprise that the day came for JT Miller and the Vancouver Canucks.
Despite the most famous trade rumors, general manager Patrick Alvin and Hockey Ops chief Jim Rutherford were in no hurry to trade with Miller, who scored 99 career points in 2021-22. The couple whose front office chose not to let Miller speak with other teams about a contract extension, and his massive new seven-year deal was pretty certain.
“I’m really looking forward to starting another class in Vancouver.”
🗣 JT Miller speaks for the first time after agreeing contract extension terms pic.twitter.com/wtivSemqcu
– Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) September 3, 2022
An extension to Miller’s contract in the Z-Canucks will likely keep him until 2030, and pay him $56 million over that time period. With a no-trade clause in place for the first four seasons of his deal and a revised no-trade clause for the last three, Miller will likely be tied to the Canucks’ plans until the contract expires a few months after his 37th birthday.
But as one of the main Canucks stories comes to an end, another takes its place. The actual value of Miller’s contract will be a big talking point next season, especially with the pressure he puts on the organization before Captain Bo Horvat lands in the free agent pool in the off season. The salary cap isn’t expected to rise by any significant amount until at least the 2023-24 season, so Vancouver is back in the same predicament as it was last year with little wiggle room.
What can make this matter easier to deal with is a well negotiated contract. Did the Canucks get good value in signing the top scorer? And if Vancouver had chosen to let Miller test the open market instead, how much would he have made? Today we will try to answer these two questions.
according to An incredibly useful contract comparison tool on CapFri Friendly, the closest equivalent to Miller’s new contract is one signed less than two months ago; Philip Forsberg’s eight-year deal with Nashville has an average annual value of $8.5 million.
Forsberg has been an integral part of the Predators’ attack since they took over in 2013, playing consistent minutes from the top line throughout and taking a leadership position. Like Miller, his contract is set to expire at the beginning of the next decade, until the end of their careers.
There are some fundamental differences between the two, particularly on the basis of equal strength and defensive skill combinations. At 27, Forsberg is two years younger than Miller and has 15 extra points in 71 career fewer games.
When their sample sizes were narrowed down to the previous three seasons, Miller leads the way with 53 more points than his Swedish counterpart. But if Forsberg’s higher scoring rate in pairwise power doesn’t narrow the gap enough, his stronger defensive numbers will.
|GT Miller (C, LW)||2019 – 2022||Philip Forsberg (LW)|
Here we can see the startling difference between Miller and Forsberg’s abilities at their end, courtesy of Evolving Hockey:
The Advanced Hockey Skater Similarity Tool also provided some useful comparisons for Miller based on his age and advanced stats over the past three seasons. The site lists Miller’s closest match as the 2017-20 Brayden Shane, who scored 182 points in 225 games and signed a similar eight-year, $52 million contract after winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. But the second closest option provides a more cautious comparison; 2015-18 Jimmy Benn.
After winning the Art Ross Cup with an 87-point campaign in 2014-15 (talking a meager recording year), Ben went on to score 237 points in 241 games in his next three seasons. With one year left on his previous contract, the stars signed their captain to an eight-year contract with AAV worth $9.5 million. Fast forward to today, Ben has only 173 points in his last 281 matches, marred by injury and complaints about “Playing horses ***” from his front desk.
The scope of these deals shows how well the value of the contract goes hand in hand with the proper rationale for signing them. Miller’s score will be contingent on how much it affects Rutherford and Alvin’s plans to assemble a playoff contender, but its current value lies among the many similar stretches signed in recent years.
While all of the previous comparisons fit with the actual reach Miller signed with the Canucks, what he could have had on the open market is a different story all together. UFA’s latest big signing, Nazim Kadri’s seven-year deal with Flames, provides the most reliable idea of the current value of the highly-rated position.
Kadri’s contract is designed almost identically to Miller’s, with a no-move clause for the first four seasons and a modified No Trade for the last three. But while Qadri had been hoping for a cash cap closer to the $10 million range, Calgary was able to lock in the Stanley Cup champion position at a more manageable AAV price of $7 million a year.
Given how much Miller’s scoring rate has improved over Kadri since 2019-20, not even the cup ring is enough to tip the scales. With a full 62 extra points over that period, Miller would have likely earn at least the same maximum that the Canucks would pay him in 2023.
Miller’s cap can be found with Johnny Goudreau’s new contract in Columbus, which will pay the 28-year-old winger $9.75 million annually. Gaudreau may have 50 fewer games under his belt, but 609 points — a full 155 points more than Miller — is what has earned him nearly eight Blue Jackets figures.
Of course, any team interested in hiring Miller through a free agency would want to see his performance next season before they get paid a dollar amount. If he ends up with another 99-point season, the teams will probably be willing to offer a deal in the $9-9.5 million range.
But if Miller calms down and ends up at a 60-70 point pace from his first two seasons in Vancouver, it’s hard to see him earn much more than the $8 million the Canucks will pay out over seven of the next eight years. While Miller’s agent, Brian Bartlett, wasn’t joking when he told Rick Daliwall he had the position Leave the money on the table To stay in Vancouver, that amount is probably not too far from the final figure.
So while a public decision to extend Miller will be up for debate long after this season is over, his ultimate cap sits at a very reasonable amount for his scoring talent, solid playing act and the icy time he currently provides. If the Canucks are lucky, it will stay that way; If not, they will have a lot of bigger issues to solve over the next eight years.