The 2022 NHL Draft, Day One. The festivities kicked off. The Montreal Canadiens were on the clock. Phones rang. General managers were talking. The New York Islanders likely had something brewing with the Vancouver Canucks. Information spread about an Islanders trade.
Leading up to the draft, news broke that the Islanders were in talks with the Vancouver Canucks. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was first with the news that talks had moved close to action.
A league source confirmed to NYIHockeyNow that the hotly discussed deal was for J.T. Miller, who had had a career season with 32 goals and 99 points.
The scuttle spread throughout the media on the draft floor.
With one year left on his deal that carries a $5.25 million AAV, the re-tooling Canucks, which are up against the salary cap after signing Brock Boeser to a new contract, could get a strong return. The acquiring team would have a full year to get Miller under a new contract.
Talks were getting louder as each minute passed. Or were they?
New York held the 13th overall selection in the 2022 NHL Draft, a pick the Islanders would likely move regardless given they are in win-now mode, need to shore up their backend and add a strong top-6 forward.
Prior to the announcement of the fourth overall pick, commissioner Gary Bettman came to the podium, and rung in the draft night chaos with one sentence: “We have a trade to announce.”
This would surely be the Miller deal everyone knew about, and Bettman would officially speak the unspoken into existence.
“The New York Islanders have traded the 13th overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens for Alexander Romanov and the 98th overall pick,” he said.
Let’s back up. This was supposed to be the Miller trade, right?
A source said immediately, “Trade with the Canucks for J.T. Miller blew up on the draft floor.”
GM vs. GM Comments
Following the first round, Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin was asked about a potential deal with the New York Islanders but refuted the reports.
“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.”
Neither GM cared to discuss any further.
If there was nothing to the smoke, surely Lamoriello would have said so, right? He said vs. he said.
About an hour or so following the draft, NYI Hockey Now learned from a league source that Allvin asked for an additional piece in the Islanders trade package, and Lamoriello was not too fond of that move. He nixed the trade.
The pieces of the possible deal are not known … if there ever was a deal. On the Islanders’ side, the assumption is that the 13th pick was in play. That would have not been enough to get the deal done, but it’s a great starting point.
Islanders Trade Speculation
Although New York may still have interest in the Canucks star, it will likely cost them a top pick as well as a top prospect, and that’s at the very least. And of course, there’s also the financial hit beyond the 2022-23 season.
The Islanders could offer a first-round pick in 2023 and top prospect Aatu Räty. However, given how Räty played once he came over to the Bridgeport Islanders, along with the team’s lack of depth out of the center position, parting with Räty does not make much sense.
If New York does have a bounceback season, that first-round selection is likely to not be as high as 13th, and that means less value.
Ultimately, we may not know much about Lamoriello’s thought process, but we do know that he does things on his terms. He knows what he wants and knows what he is willing to give up.
Looking at the big picture, Miller could be the perfect addition. He plays wing and center and could work wonders with Mathew Barzal. He would certainly fortify the Islanders’ top six. Beyond his offensive upside, the 29-year-old can win draws and play a solid game in his own end. He won 52.1 percent of his draws in 2021-22 and has a career FO% of 52.7. That would greatly benefit Barzal, who is not strong in the face-off dot (46.3%) and often saw his linemates step in to take some of those face-offs from time to time.
Johnny Gaudreau and other high-profile forwards will hit the market on Wednesday. Sit tight.