7 years, 56 Million Dollars (8M AAV)
The Vancouver Canucks have locked up their best and most productive skater long-term, signing J.T Miller to a 7-year 56-million-dollar contract extension. The contract is set to start during the 2023-2024 season and will carry an average annual value of 8 million dollars (8M AAV).
Miller is coming off a historic season setting career highs in goals (32), assists (67), and points (99). His 67 assists are tied for 4th in franchise history for a single season and his 99 points rank 7th. He was the only player to receive a vote for the Hart (MVP) in which his team didn’t make the playoffs and he also received votes for the Selke.
Miller; however, isn’t a one-year wonder. Ever since being acquired from the Lightning for a first and third-round pick, J.T Miller has been one of the premier point producers in the league. Over the last 3 seasons (all with Canucks) he ranks 12th in NHL scoring and 4th among centers only trailing McDavid, MacKinnon, and Matthews… good company to be in. His 8M AAV in comparison, will make him the 34th highest-paid forward and the 50th highest-paid player in the league when the 2023-2024 season rolls around.
Miller’s value extends beyond points as well. He is the clear emotional and vocal leader of the team, and I would argue the most competitive player on nightly basis. Miller possesses immense versatility as he can play all three forward positions at an elite level and last season playing mostly Center, he put up a very efficient 54% faceoff percentage.
Miller is a monster on both special-teams units. He produced a whopping 38 points on the man advantage, trailing only Draisaitl and McDavid and he also ranked 2nd in short-handed time on ice for the club, trailing only Tyler Myers.
...The guy literally does it all.
Miller isn’t perfect though. His competitive spirit boils over into some boneheaded penalties, but worst of all produces some of the laziest backchecks and line changes in recent memory. His defensive game has also been criticized at times, although he has received Selke votes 2 out of the last 3 seasons. He may not be a shutdown defender, but he is a more than capable two-way player and his poor backchecks and emotional outbursts can be reined in under proper coaching.
At best, Miller is a premier point producer who can play all three forward positions, quarterback a powerplay, play extended minutes on the penalty kill, and contribute as a solid two-way forward, all while being the vocal and emotional leader of the team. If that sounds like a really good player, it’s because it is. His 8M AAV in the short to medium term could easily be a steal for the Canucks if he continues to produce the way he has over the last 3 seasons. Fans should have confidence that Miller will be able to produce at a point per game for the next 3-4 seasons as Bruce Boudreau is known to get the most out of elite veteran scorers and he will be paired with quality wingers and be given plenty of powerplay time.
This contract is not an egregious overpay, but it is also not a “steal”. It seems like both the team and the player reached a fair market deal, although many have pointed out that Miller could have signed an 8.5-9 million dollar contract for 8 years if he hit the UFA market next offseason. He certainly left money on the table to stay in Vancouver.
Two major points of contention have soured some Canucks fans’ opinion of the deal nonetheless: The length of the contract and whether this team’s window to compete for the Stanley Cup is now.
Miller will be 30 when his 7-year contract extension kicks in, which means he will be 37 by the time the contract expires. Yes, there is clearly some lingering PTSD from the Loui Eriksson contract, but 8M a season until the age of 37 is daunting. We are going to see some regression from now until the end of the contract, but how much is the ultimate question? Miller is a late bloomer when it comes to NHL success as his best season to date just occurred at the age of 28 while forwards typically peak from ages 24-26. This could lend some credence to the belief that Miller can and will stay productive into his mid 30’s. Miller has not shown any signs of regression but has in fact improved with age. The salary cap is also slated to rise significantly after the 2023-2024 season, thus softening the blow of his 8M AAV. With that being said, Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin don’t sign Miller to this contract unless they believe the Canucks can start seriously contending for a Stanley Cup.
The Canucks have missed the playoffs for 2 consecutive seasons and their only recent success with the current core came during the shortened bubble season. Betting on this core being able to bring home this franchise’s first Stanley Cup is certainly a gamble, but one not completely unsubstantiated. The Canucks were red hot for the 57 games under Bruce Boudreau, on pace for 106 points over a full 82 games. They then added during Free Agency, signing Andrei Kuzmenko, Ilya Mikheyev, and Curtis Lazar, among others to strengthen the forward core and add depth throughout the roster. Pair that with the expected progression of the Canucks myriad of young skaters and it isn’t too far-fetched to see this team competing for more than just a playoff berth.
This win-now mentality can also be highlighted by the fact that Thatcher Demko and Quinn Hughes are on extremely team-friendly deals for the next 4 seasons. Utilizing the surplus value you get from these contracts before they expire is vital. Rutherford and Allvin have come to a conclusion; you cannot simply waste 1-2 seasons of Demko at 5M and Hughes at 7.85M trying to rebuild or retool.
The time is now.
The team still needs to add to their defensive core but make no mistake the Canucks should be competitive for not only this season, but seasons to come. The signing of J.T Miller signifies a changing of expectations. One from where the hope was to just make the playoffs to one where making it and winning a round is the bare minimum. I have been told expectations are the killer of joy, but for a team who’s lacked any expectations for the past 8 seasons, the pressure to perform now is a welcomed change.