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With J.T. Miller's Extension Done, The Canucks Raise The Bar

J.T. Miller doesn't want you to sleep on the Canucks this season, and the team is ready to take the next steps forward after an interesting summer.
J.T. Miller

Don't sleep on the Vancouver Canucks next season, says J.T. Miller.

"I think we're going to hit the ground running and surprise a lot of people this year," he said when speaking with the media Tuesday. 

Miller's belief in his team is at the heart of his decision to commit to the club long term. Late last Friday, the Canucks announced that they had agreed to a seven-year contract extension with their leading scorer, He'll be 30 when the new deal takes effect in the 2023-24 season. It carries a cap hit of $8 million per season.

"I think we've come a long way and I think we've gotten tighter knit," said Miller about why he wanted to stay in Vancouver. "When we won last year, a lot — when Bruce (Boudreau) got there — we had a lot of fun. And I think we want to do more."

After months of trade speculation, the deal ended up coming together quickly last week. 

"When you're doing a deal like this long term, we took our time and looked into the roster," said general manager Patrik Allvin during a press conference on Tuesday at Scotia Barn in Burnaby, B.C., where Canucks players have begun informal skates. "The cap situation moving forward, obviously, is important. And then we looked at options. What's out there in terms of players being available, potentially, for next summer?

"All the way along here, J.T. was our best player last year, and he's a super-competitive player. We were really happy to to get the contract extension done."

The new deal carries a no-movement clause in all seven seasons and a modified no-trade clause in the final three years. 

This fall, Miller will be playing out the final year of the contract he signed with the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2018, one year before he was acquired by the Canucks. It carries a cap hit of $5.25 million, and has no formal trade protection for 2022-23.

Allvin downplayed the significance of that detail. "When doing a deal like this, the plan is for J.T. to stay here this year and seven more," he said.

Last season, Miller scored a career-high 99 points, tops on the Canucks and ninth overall in the NHL. His new deal is one year short of the maximum eight-year term that was available in Vancouver, and the $8 million average annual value comes in perhaps a bit lower than he could have commanded on the open market.

"We thought that we were going for an offer that was fair on my end," Miller said. "The trumping factor is that I want to be in Vancouver and I love this group of guys and I want to win in Vancouver."

Next up for Allvin: getting pen to paper with captain Bo Horvat. The 27-year-old is currently the longest-tenured member of the Vancouver roster, going into his ninth NHL campaign. He'll be playing out the last season of a six-year contract which carries a cap hit of $5.5 million, and can become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn't sign an extension.

"We like Bo and we're communicating with his camp. We'll see if there is a deal to be made," Allvin said, noting that every contract negotiation takes its own unique path. "He's been a good player for his stint in Vancouver, so hopefully we can figure something out here."

During the summer, the Canucks also inked winger Brock Boeser to a new three-year contract and added free agent forwards Ilya Mikheyev, Andrei Kuzmenko, Curtis Lazar and Dakota Joshua.

"By adding those extra forwards. I think they give the coaching staff a lot of options," Allvin said. "I think we're a deeper team. We want to create more internal competition, so definitely we have more players that can play different positions."

It's not the summer many observers expected after new club president Jim Rutherford talked about prioritizing the creation of salary-cap space when he arrived on the scene last December.

But offloading players via trade has been challenging in the current flat-cap environment. "Also, the cost of getting rid of contracts as well," said Allvin, "and the hard part where we have players, say, beyond a year makes it harder to make those moves."

So the Canucks head into training camp looking to build on a successful conclusion to last season, where they went 32-15-10 for 74 points in 57 games after Boudreau took the reins on Dec. 5, 2021.

"I don't think you just go from being a non-playoff team to be a Stanley Cup winner," Allvin said. "I think this is a process over time.

"I think in today's game, our goal is to be a very competitive team over time. By being that, we need to make a big step this year. I believe that the players are prepared and their mindset is ready to come in here for day one training camp."

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