The Vancouver Canucks are off to a disappointing start to this season. With just eight wins and 18 points in 24 games, they are mired near the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Their poor performance has generated plenty of recent trade speculation about several core players such as Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and J.T. Miller. The latter, however, is the only one to be directly linked to another club. On Nov. 23, The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma reported the Minnesota Wild had Miller in their crosshairs.
The Wild probably aren't the only club calling the Canucks to express an interest in Miller. The 28-year-old center is a versatile two-way forward who can also skate on the wing. His experience, leadership and grit would draw considerable interest from playoff contenders.
Miller wouldn't be a postseason rental player, either. Cap Friendly indicates he's signed through 2022-23 with an annual average value of $5.25 million. He also lacks no-trade protection, giving the Canucks a wide field of potential trade partners should they made him available.
Assuming the Canucks were willing to trade Miller for another player, it would have to be a dollar-in, dollar-out swap. They have maxed out their salary-cap space and placed sidelined players such as Micheal Ferland and Brandon Sutter on long-term injured reserve in order to sit above the $81.5 million salary cap.
It's uncertain whether the Canucks intend to shop Miller or anyone else at this time. Team owner Francesco Aquilini could decide to replace general manager Jim Benning or head coach Travis Green rather than shake up the roster. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the possibility of a core player such as Miller getting moved before the March 21 trade deadline.
Here are five possible landing spots for Miller and the type of return the Canucks could seek from each club.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Miller could be a good fit with the Columbus Blue Jackets. They still haven't found a suitable replacement for Pierre-Luc Dubois after trading him to the Winnipeg Jets last season. With $10.7 million in projected salary-cap space, they have sufficient room to take on Miller's cap hit.
Jackets captain Boone Jenner fills the first-line center role, but that's not a role the versatile two-way forward is best suited for. Promising rookie Cole Sillinger could one day fill that position, but he's not ready for that responsibility. Jack Roslovic showed some potential last season after joining the Jackets in the Dubois trade, but he's struggling to put up points this season.
Miller would automatically become the Jackets' first-line center, allowing them to shift Jenner to the second line as a center or winger. He could establish strong offensive chemistry with Patrick Laine once the 23-year-old left winger recovers from his oblique injury. His addition could help the Jackets become serious playoff contenders this season and next.
The Canucks could seek one of the Jackets' two first-round picks in the 2022 draft. They could also likely target a promising youngster like Silliger or Adam Boqvist or a prospect such as Kent Johnson or Corson Ceulemans. Sillinger, Boqvist and Johnson could be untouchable, but Ceulemans and a first-rounder could be a worthwhile offer.
The Minnesota Wild are riding high in the NHL standings, sitting atop the Central Division and among the top three clubs in the Western Conference. However, they lack a true first-line center. While Ryan Hartman is filling that role, he's not an established first-liner like Miller. That could become an issue for the Wild as this season rolls along.
On Nov. 23, The Vancouver Province's Ben Kuzma reported the Wild had Miller in their trade crosshairs. He speculated they could be fishing for a player to help them get over the playoff hump. The Wild haven't reached the second round of the playoffs since 2015. While their roster has undergone considerable change since then, their postseason woes remain a nagging issue.