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Rosner: Now’s The Time For Islanders to Acquire J.T. Miller



J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks, New York Islanders

On Friday, Vancouver Hockey Now’s Rob Simpson reached out to Brian Bartlett, the agent of J.T. Miller, regarding contract extension talks with the Vancouver Canucks. Bartlett shared that talks may be coming to an end rather quickly.

“It’s possible we make a decision to cut off talks when the season starts, to avoid distractions for J.T. and his teammates, but we have not made that decision yet,” Bartlett shared.

With this information, now is the time for the New York Islanders to revisit a J.T. Miller acquisition, especially after striking out on elite forward Johnny Gaudreau and 2022 Stanley Cup winner Nazem Kadri.

The New York Islanders were linked to J.T. Miller at the 2022 NHL Draft, but the rumored trade blew up on the draft floor per league sources.

New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello and Vancouver Canucks general manager Patrik Allviin were asked about the rumored trade following day one of the draft.

“There was definitely nothing going on [with the Islanders],” Allvin said, per TSN’s Pierre Lebrun. Allvin seemed shocked that there were even reports about it.

On the other side, Lou Lamoriello shrugged and said, “Talk to Vancouver.”

Miller notched 32 goals with 67 assists in 80 games a season ago and is the winger that could work wonders with a player like Islanders Mathew Barzal, who is about to embark on a contract year.

With this news about extension negotiations possibly coming to a halt real soon, the Vancouver Canucks find themselves in a precarious position.

If an extension is not agreed upon, Allvin has little to no choice but to trade the 29-year-old Miller. That decision still would have to happen if the Canucks were in a playoff spot come the 2023 Trade Deadline, as he is not going to lose a 99-point player for nothing.

But there is a lot of risk for Allvin to wait until the deadline.

If J.T. Miller, knock on wood, gets hurt, there goes his value. If Miller struggles this season or does not come close to being a point-per-game player, his value diminishes.

It’s also the reason why Miller should be pushing for an extension.

Back on Aug. 12, Miller joined former NHL All-Star John Scott on his podcast “Dropping the Gloves” as he spoke about his willingness to sign a long-term deal with the Canucks.

“I want to be in Vancouver, that’s all I can tell you,” Miller emphasized. “But at the same time it’s a business from my side and their side, and I think they understand that and I understand that too.”

You could tell by the way Miller spoke during the interview that he is a bit frustrated with the current contract situation.

Why the Time is Now for New York Islanders

As mentioned above, the New York Islanders did not upgrade their offense this offseason after finishing the 2021-22 season with the 23rd best offense in the NHL, at 2.79 goals per game.

The defense was upgraded with the acquisition of 22-year-old Alexander Romanov, with 45-year-old Zdeno Chara and soon-to-be 40-year-old Andy Greene not returning.

There’s a lot riding on the defense being elite or close to it in 2021-22, and if the defense does struggle, it’s safe to say this team is going to have a very tough season.

As of now, the Islanders are still that goal-scorer away from a Stanley Cup, and J.T. Miller could be the guy that gets New York over the hump.

Unlike when Jean-Gabriel Pageau came over from the Ottawa Senators back in February of 2020 or when Kyle Palmieri came over from the New Jersey Devils in March of 2021, there was an adjustment period needed before those two found their game.

By acquiring J.T. Miller now or prior to the start of training camp, that allows him to get acclimated to his new teammates, new linemates, and the system under first-year head coach Lane Lambert.

Mathew Barzal has not been given an elite linemate over his six-year NHL career, and that could be something that stops Barzal from signing with New York long-term.

J.T. Miller, if the two click, could solve that problem.

While the time is now for the Islanders to get Miller, it’s also the time for you to get in on the betting game in New York. Check out the best NHL betting sites in New York and ready for the hockey season.

The Cost for J.T. Miller

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin will have a high price tag for one of his better players. But based on what Bartlett had to say, Rutherford may not have the leverage he thought he had.

A first-round pick is likely to be headed to Vancouver, whether it comes from the New York Islanders or another team, but that does not mean it has to be a 2023 first-round selection. It could be a conditional 2024 first-rounder.

Speaking with Rob Simpson over the last few days, the Vancouver Canucks are slim on defense, particularly a right-side, right-handed defenseman.

The New York Islanders have one of those in soon-to-be 30-year-old Scott Mayfield, who’s about to enter the final year of his contract and is due for a raise. Mayfield spoke during his end-of-the-year interview about his thoughts going into a contract year.

“I love it here. My wife loves it here. We have our house, you kind of set up home base here, we’re staying this summer so we love it on the island,” Mayfield said. “But though I have no expectations. Just show up and do my job.”

Mayfield blocked a shot back on Mar. 22 against the Ottawa Senators, leading to a lower-body injury that knocked him out for the remainder of the season. Mayfield, in 61 games played, had three goals and 15 assists with 179 blocks and 88 hits while averaging 19:46 minutes per game.

He’s one of those defensemen that every winning team needs, due to his ability to play on the penalty kill, give up the body, and provide that spark of offense from time to time like we saw when he sniped Tampa Bay Lightning’s netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy in Game 6 of the 2021 semi-finals.

Mayfield does not fit the “young defenseman” ask, so the Islanders, as a sweetener, might have to include former second-round pick in 2019, 21-year-old Samuel Bolduc.

Bolduc, who stands at 6’4, weighing 220 lbs, is a left-handed defenseman but has tremendous upside despite only posting seven points in 57 games with the Bridgeport Islanders a year ago.

The Canucks are comfortable regarding their wingers, but they may also ask for one from the Islanders as the final piece.

21-year-old Simon Holmstrom, the 23rd overall pick back in 2019, is fresh off his best season in the AHL, as he posted 12 goals and 31 assists in 68 games for Bridgeport.

Because the Islanders would be losing Mayfield, they would need to bring in another defenseman. The Canucks, given the package that the Islanders are sending in this example, could ask for 31-year-old defenseman Luke Schenn to be included.

Schenn, a RHD, carries a cap hit of $850,000 for the upcoming season.

Also, cap-wise, the New York Islanders may ask Allvin to retain $500,000 of Miller’s owed $5.25 million.

Now, this all hangs on the belief that Miller would sign an extension with New York. If he was not open to an extension, the Islanders not only do not make a trade with this many assets but may just move on from Miller altogether.

Roster Scenario

The New York Islanders currently have $2.36 million in space, with that number fluctuating depending on which defenseman holds the number six spot following training camp.

With the acquisition of J.T. Miller ($4.75 M, which includes retainment) and Luke Schenn ($850K) and the loss of Scott Mayfield ($1.45 M), the New York Islanders would need to waive a player to make room.

One of their depth fourth-liners (~$1.1 million created) as well as burying Richard Panik in the minors ($375K), would get the Islanders relatively close or just a tad over the $82.5 million cap ceiling (315K in this scenario).

Things can be done to make sure the Islanders are cap compliant.