Athleticism recently announced the news that JT Miller’s agent said there’s a good chance they’ll end all contract negotiations with the Canucks once the NHL season begins.
The JT Miller saga was the biggest news of the Canucks’ offseason and the story dragged on for months as the Canucks were unable to find a suitable trade partner. While at one point it seemed almost inconceivable that Miller would start the season in Vancouver, it now seems extremely unlikely that the Canucks will be able to process him before opening night.
While the Miller camp and the Canucks are still a long way from agreeing on an extension, negotiations officially coming to an end would be an important development for the Canucks. There are implications not only for the Canucks’ ability to find an extension, but also for Miller’s value as a business asset.
Rise in comparables in the NHL
The Canucks would like to keep Miller on their team, but the price difference seems too big to overcome. This valuation gap has not diminished as other players in the league have signed big contracts. These can be used as comparables by the Miller camp and work to rate the forward out of the Canucks’ budget.
Nazem Kadri has just signed a $49 million/7-year contract with division rival Calgary Flames. Miller is a younger and better player than Kadri and the Calgary Flames rookie said he left money on the table to go to Alberta. This means that $50 million over seven years serves as a starting point for the Miller camp and a figure that would be a benchmark at best.
These contracts prevent the Canucks and Miller from reaching an agreement and make it more likely that he will enter the NHL season still with the Canucks. This gives Miller’s side the opportunity to end the negotiations, leaving the Canucks with little leverage to find the best deal possible.
Further losing an already weakened negotiating position
At last season’s trade deadline, the Canucks could offer a top-ten NHL point producer for two playoffs at a cap of just $5.25 million. It’s a very valuable asset that could be made even more enjoyable if the Canucks had agreed to keep Miller’s already good salary.
As it stands, the Canucks can offer a playoff run for that same player (albeit six months older). This is already a decline in value that has now been exacerbated as the NHL went through the summer months and teams bought other players as free agents or in trades. These teams are no longer looking to make that splashy addition and don’t need Miller.
The Canucks’ bargaining position has already been significantly weakened. If Miller’s camp were to come out and publicly announce that they’ve halted all talks of an extension, the Canucks will be pushed into a corner. Any potential business partner can threaten the ability to wait until the summer and then bid on Miller’s services when he’s a free agent, leaving the Canucks with nothing to show for their once-premium asset.
Facing the possibility of the worst-case scenario
That worst-case scenario — where the Canucks can’t find a trade partner or reach an agreement on an extension and Miller walks for nothing next summer — is on every Vancouver fan’s mind. After witnessing nearly a decade of management mismanagement of assets, the fanbase is rightly scarred.
There is a lot of pressure on Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford to make the most of this move which is really the first big test of their tenure. Considering the two have been quiet on the deal front so far – especially given Rutherford’s happy past – this saga will be huge for the duo’s reputation.
Given Miller’s impact on the ice and the value he presents as a business asset with his low salary, this decision will likely play a major role in determining the success of Allvin and Rutherford’s regime. While rushing it doesn’t necessarily mean failure, it’s a great opportunity for the Canucks to set themselves up for success. Allowing Miller’s camp to publicly cut off negotiations early in the season would be a huge mistake that would make life much harder for the Canucks.