Jonathan Tanner Miller must come from a family of 30 brothers, each named J-something T-something, because it seems like J.T. Miller has been traded each day for a month. And yet, on the eve of the National Hockey League entry in Montreal, he was still part of the Vancouver Canucks.
“You guys ask me more about J.T. than other teams do,” Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin quipped after arriving in Montreal for the draft that begins Thursday evening. “I’m hopeful to continue to talk to J.T. (about a contract extension). Again, he was the best player for us last year and he’s a really, really good hockey player. We definitely don’t want to give players away, especially not our best player.”
Allvin said last week that with their 99-point scorer under contract through next season, the Canucks do not feel any urgency to make a decision on keeping or trading Miller before this draft or free agency next week – a position echoed Wednesday by president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford.
But the draft is a significant pressure point, and by Wednesday more teams than reporters were likely talking to Allvin about Miller, who would be a slam-dunk to re-sign a maximum eight-year extension if he were, say, 25 years old and not 29.
The power forward’s market value is pretty clear: something north of the eight-year, $65.1-million deal that Tomas Hertl signed in March to remain with the San Jose Sharks. Miller outscored Hertl by 74 points over the last three seasons but will be starting his next contract at age 30, not 28.
Another skilled but lesser player than Miller, Kevin Fiala, just signed a seven-year, $55.1 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. But Fiala turns 26 on July 22.
Fiala’s trade one week ago from the Minnesota Wild also set a market minimum for what a Miller trade should net the Canucks. The Kings surrendered the 19th pick in Thursday’s first round and a B-plus prospect in defenceman Brock Faber.
Allvin and Rutherford will need more than that to part with Miller, who besides being a better player than Fiala also has the cost certainty of another season under contract at a bargain $5.25 million.
Considering Miller’s age, the Canucks’ salary-cap squeeze and youthfulness of nearly all their other core players, contract term has always looked to be the monumental obstacle to re-signing in Vancouver
The team has reportedly offered Miller a six-year deal.
Whatever the Canucks choose to do – and remember, Miller can decide after next season where he plays – could shape the franchise for years and define this early phase of the Rutherford-Allvin era.
For now, the most obvious sign of this past winter’s regime change in Vancouver was the media availabilities the Canucks set up Wednesday with Allvin, the NHL’s first Swedish general manager, and assistant GMs Émilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato.
When Rutherford hired her in January, Castonguay became the first female assistant GM in the league. Two weeks later, Granato became the second. Now suddenly there are five women in that position after the New Jersey Devils announced Wednesday the promotion of Kate Madigan.
“Sometimes it’s just, you know, one domino that needs to fall on,” Castonguay said during her Zoom call. “I think the glass ceiling was broken there, and I knew that after that the floodgates would open. I think there’s a lot of qualified women for these positions. If my hiring and Jim making that. . . very forward-thinking decision has opened doors for the rest of the league and women in this industry, then I commend him. I only accepted the job, but he’s the one who offered it to me, right?”
On a separate call, Granato told reporters: “It’s just neat to see the representation. I think before it was, like, ‘Well, women can’t do this job or women aren’t qualified. Women don’t know hockey.’ But that’s just not true. That’s just biases or myths. With so many women now representing, maybe those biases can change. So it’s exciting.”
A former player agent, Castonguay oversees Canucks contracts and anything related to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. She’s learning to manage the Canucks’ salary cap. Granato’s duties in hockey-operations include overseeing the scouting departments.
Both are involved on the Miller file and Castonguay last week finalized the three-year, $19.5-million contract that will keep restricted free agent Brock Boeser with the Canucks at a salary more manageable than the $7.5-million qualifying offer he was due.
Wednesday was the first time reporters had the chance to ask Granato and Castonguay, women newly empowered in the NHL, about the Hockey Canada scandal involving the settlement of a civil lawsuit alleging a mass sexual assault in 2018 by unnamed junior players, some of whom by now are expected to be in the NHL.
The league is conducting its own investigation, and Members of Parliament, who grilled Hockey Canada president Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney on June 20, will hold another round of hearings in Ottawa on July 26-27.
“I just know for us in the hockey world, we need to be better with these kinds of things and how we handle them and understand that it’s not acceptable and it shouldn’t happen,” Granato said. “We just need to be better at this and. . . how we look at these issues. Instead of brushing them under the rug, they need to be dealt with.”
Castonguay said: “I just feel like we need to fix the issues that are there. But I also know. . . there are really good people wanting to do the right thing and doing the right thing. Hopefully the league gets to the bottom of it, and then maybe (the NHL is) better because we need to be, obviously.”
• Allvin said Canucks defenceman Tucker Poolman, who played only one period in the final three months of the regular season due to neurological complications from migraines, is skating and working out and feels healthy. Allvin expects the defenceman to be available to play when next season starts. . . He said he’s not aware of any issues preventing Canucks Vasily Podkolzin and Andrei Kuzmenko from leaving Russia to play in Vancouver next season. Multiple reports Wednesday said Wild superstar Kirill Kaprizov is now wanted in Russia for purchasing a falsified military ID card in 2017. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov was arrested last week while trying to leave Russia and is being detained at a military base there.