NHL Rumour Roundup: Will Maple Leafs make push for J.T. Miller?

We’re going “Cross Country Canada” to figure out what each Canadian team needs, and how they’ll get it, ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs head to Anaheim in hopes of shoring up a major defensive need, in Josh Manson.

Jake Muzzin being placed on long-term injured reserve could end up having a significant impact on the Toronto Maple Leafs and their trade deadline plans.

Since Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is willing to spend to the cap, Toronto moving Muzzin’s $5.625 million to LTIR has resulted in plenty of speculation as we inch closer to the March 21 NHL trade deadline.

Another Canadian team involved in trade rumours is Vancouver, and fans on both sides of the country have wondered if a trade between the Leafs and Canucks is realistic, especially with J.T. Miller’s name being floated out there.

Most of Vancouver's roster is locked up for next season and GM Patrik Allvin acknowledged there’s no rush to make a decision on whether or not to move Miller, who has one remaining year on his team-friendly contract ($5.25 million AAV) before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2023.

“I've been impressed with the way he plays, the way he cares, and I think he's been probably, since I've been here, the most consistent player,” the Canucks GM told Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre earlier this week. “I think that's probably something we're planning as a staff, to sit down together this summer and see which guys are going into the last year of their deals. We want to see where they are, their mindset and what they want to do and if there is a fit here.”

That hasn’t stopped the rumour mill from churning, though, with Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman saying during the Toronto-Columbus broadcast earlier this week he’s “on the J.T. Miller train” if Leafs GM Kyle Dubas decided to use his LTIR space to make things interesting.

The Athletic's Canucks reporter Rick Dhaliwal said Wednesday, “Toronto called Vancouver yesterday to see what it would take to get J.T. Miller,” before adding he believes the Leafs also checked in on Luke Schenn, who was taken by Toronto in the first round of the 2008 draft.

Miller wouldn’t come cheap, considering his favourable contract situation and that he’s having another productive year. Performances like Thursday’s two-goal, two-assist showing in a blowout against the Flames will only drive the price up for inquiring teams.

With 57 points in 51 games, Miller would force a team like Toronto to dip into its relatively deep prospect pool. The Maple Leafs hold their own first- and second-round picks this year but lack selections in rounds 3-6. In 2023 and 2024, the team is fully stocked, with picks minus next year’s seventh-rounder.

Like most teams preparing for a lengthy post-season run, the Maple Leafs could use some improvements at all three levels. Adding an impact forward such as Miller would be flashy but it wouldn’t solve anything in terms of blue-line help. Schenn would help some, but Ben Chiarot, Brett Kulak, Hampus Lindholm and Robert Hagg are also among the type of pending UFA blueliners the Leafs and other teams could target.

Forsberg’s future
Filip Forsberg has worn a Predators uniform in all 536 regular-season and 82 post-season games he has skated in yet the forward’s time in Nashville could be winding down.

Longtime hockey insider and Blues reporter Andy Strickland reported this week Nashville is actively looking for a partner to facilitate a Forsberg trade.

Nashville faces an interesting predicament because the team is leading the Western Conference’s wild-card race. On one hand, longtime Preds GM David Poile could seek something in return for a high-end rental player such as Forsberg. On the other hand, they could keep Forsberg if they feel a lengthy playoff run is realistic.

The pending unrestricted free agent, whose cap hit has been an even $6 million since 2016, was acquired from the Washington Capitals nine years ago in one of the great one-sided trades of the past decade (Martin Erat and minor leaguer Michael Latta went to the Capitals; the Predators also got a first-round pick, which they used on Seth Jones).

Forsberg, 27, ranks second in Predators history in goals 204 and fifth in both assists (225) and points (429). He has 26 goals and 44 points in 39 games this season.

The Preds have an extra third-round pick and no sixth-round pick in 2022, but beyond that the team possesses all its own draft selections for the next three seasons. Whether it’s a team like Boston with whom many speculate Forsberg would be a great fit, or elsewhere, any team considered a buyer with assets and cap space to spare ahead of the deadline would be wise to inquire.

Elliotte Friedman did mention on The Jeff Marek Show he believes Poile is trying to re-sign Forsberg, saying he thinks “they know the number has to be above (Matt) Duchene and (Ryan) Johansen,” both of whom carry AAVs of $8 million. Friedman expanded on that in his latest 32 Thoughts column.

Time to take Pavelski off the rental board?
Any team eyeing an impact rental forward that has considered Joe Pavelski will likely need to look elsewhere. According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, the Dallas Stars have begun preliminary contract extension talks with the centre that have gone well thus far. Since Pavelski will be 38 at the beginning of next season, Seravalli added term could be as much of a sticking point as salary.

Pavelski’s cap hit since signing in Dallas three years ago has been an even $7 million. After a subpar first season with the Stars, Pavelski leads the team with 46 goals and 105 points over the past two seasons.

Dallas is firmly in the Western Conference wild-card race, so Jim Nill also has several difficult decisions to make in regards to pending UFAs John Klingberg, Alex Radulov and Braden Holtby.

Will the Kraken be busy sellers at first deadline?

Seattle’s inaugural season has not gone according to plan and the expansion franchise appears to be clear a seller heading into the deadline. Mark Giordano is chief among the possible rental players. GM Ron Francis will work with the veteran blueliner, who has a limited no-trade clause, and Seattle could retain salary no problem to alleviate a team taking on Giordano’s entire $6.75-million cap hit.

Although he’s not having his best season, he’s only three years removed from his Norris Trophy-winning campaign and the 38-year-old remains effective in a variety of in-game situations.

Calle Jarnkrok and Marcus Johansson are among Seattle’s pending UFA forwards who could also be moved. Friedman wrote Friday that Washington could be a landing spot for Jarnkrok.

Is Chara on the block after breaking record?
Zdeno Chara just passed Chris Chelios for most games played by a defenceman in NHL history and it looks like Big Z’s name will remain in the headlines leading up to the trade deadline. The soon-to-be 45-year-old is expected to draw interest from around the league. Last week, The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford mentioned the future Hall of Famer as one of five possible defencemen the Blues could target – Chiarot, Giordano, Jakob Chychrun and Hampus Lindholm being the others.

A report from NYI Hockey Now suggested the Isles will look to the trade market to see if any contending teams would be interested in Chara, but GM Lou Lamoriello reportedly did not want to begin the process until after Chara broke the record.

Oilers goalie situation

“The Edmonton Oilers have at times this season actively looked at getting a goalie. That’s no secret. We all know it. That’s out there.”

That’s one thing Friedman told Marek this week before adding Oilers GM Ken Holland has made it clear price is an issue. Edmonton has overpaid for netminders in the recent past in free agency and doesn’t want to repeat those mistakes via the trade route.

So, what options does that leave them?

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