New Jersey Devils Should Target J.T. Miller From Vancouver Canucks

New Jersey Devils - JT Miller (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
New Jersey Devils - JT Miller (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils have been slightly inconsistent in its forward group this season. It’s caused Lindy Ruff to changed the lineup quite often. The Devils currently have five forwards with less than 100 games of NHL experience, and that doesn’t include Nick Merkley, Mikhail Maltsev, and Jesper Boqvist who have been used sparingly this season as well. They could use a little experience amongst the forwards with a contract that’s beyond this season.

That’s because Kyle Palmieri, Nikita Gusev, and Travis Zajac all have expiring contracts this season. They are all older and could be against the team’s philosophy of signing players who fit the age range of the team’s new core. Acquiring players over the age of 24 might not be Tom Fitzgerald’s goal as of right now, but it is hard to fathom most teams giving up contributing players who are that young.

The Devils and Canucks could be perfect trading partners.

One team with a lot of young talent that might be looking to sell the farm is the Vancouver Canucks. They are in a bad way. After coming into the season with major hype, they might be the most disappointing team through one quarter of the season. Their 8-14-2 record has them just three points ahead of the Ottawa Senators.

There are a lot of bad contracts on the books for the Canucks. They do have some coming off the books this offseason, and they will have more than $23 million in cap space, but that won’t last. Both Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson see their entry-level contracts run out this season. They will likely cost $15 million for the two of them. After filling the roster, there’s almost no money left to upgrade the roster. That’s not even considering what to do with Thatcher Demko, who also needs a new contract this offseason.

The Canucks need to start selling off pieces and changing the future of this franchise. The outlook is not great if they keep the team as is. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked them 18th among NHL prospect pools. That’s also hoping that Vasili Podkolzin doesn’t pull a Kirill Kaprizov and wait half a decade to come to the NHL.

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Basically, the Canucks need to move pieces and get more young talent. A team that has a ton of young talent is the Devils. Hey, this could work out.

Obviously, the Devils will want to ask for players like Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat. They are both extremely young and signed very affordable contracts. For this reason, they will either be untouchable for the Canucks or they will cost a fortune. The Devils have a deep prospect pool, but losing a piece like Alexander Holtz or Ty Smith makes it look a lot worse.

The player these two teams can agree on is J.T. Miller. He’s been struggling this season at times, and he still has two years left after this season at $5.25 million per. He’s 27 years old, so a little on the older side of what the Devils want, but he’s right in the middle of his prime. The Devils need some players like this on the roster.

Just days ago, Miller was dropped to the third line. This is likely because the Canucks are just looking for a spark up and down the lineup, but it’s telling that he was the player that was dropped. He has 19 points in 21 games but only four goals. This, after he scored 27 goals last season.

The Canucks literally just spent a 1st-round pick to bring Miller in the locker room. They aren’t going to let him go for cheap. However, finding that kind of value in this market is going to be difficult. The Devils wouldn’t spend a 1st-round pick on Miller, but they would be willing to spend a 2nd-round pick and a high-end prospect plus a middle-of-the-pack prospect.

Just spitballing, it would probably take a few players who are close to or NHL ready. Then, someone with massive upside would have to be part of the deal. Janne Kuokkanen is NHL ready and could be coveted by the Canucks as a cheap option moving forward. He’s not good enough to be the cornerstone of this deal, even with the draft pick attached. The Devils would also have to add someone like Reilly Walsh. It still feels just a little short.

Would the Devils be willing to throw Walsh, Kuokkanen, and a prospect like Dawson Mercer? That makes this deal uncomfortable, and that’s usually when it starts to make sense for the other side. Miller was great last season. He’s still been very good this season, but the Devils really have to wonder what it’s worth to them to make a deal happen. Mercer could be a really good player, but Miller already is.