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If not win-now, J.T. Miller contract at least means it’s win-soon time for Allvin’s Canucks

"I think we're gonna hit the ground running and surprise a lot of people this year."
J.T. Miller
J.T. Miller signed the type of contract extension with the Vancouver Canucks that typically means a team is committing to winning immediately.

When Jim Rutherford and Patrik Allvin took over the Vancouver Canucks last season, their initial assessment was that some significant changes needed to be made. 

Rutherford projected a two-year retool for the Canucks and was blunt: “We all know that we're going to have to make changes at some point in order to get better and have a contending team.”

So, it came as something of a surprise when the Canucks didn’t make many changes at all during the 2022 offseason. NHL insiders that predicted the team would have a completely different look before the start of next season appear to have been 100% wrong. 

While Allvin added a few free agent forwards like Ilya Mikheyev, Curtis Lazar, and Andrei Kuzmenko to improve the team’s depth, the defence is unchanged from last season. And Allvin’s latest move suggests the Canucks feel like they’re ready to contend quite a bit more quickly than initially predicted. 

J.T. Miller’s seven-year contract extension will take him from the age of 30 until he’s 37. Those types of contracts are typically signed with the understanding that the best value will come in the initial few years of the deal, with the player providing less value for the last few years of the contract as he ages and declines. 

It’s the type of contract a team signs when they believe they’re ready to win now.

"This is a process over time."

Allvin, however, disputed that characterization in a media availability on Tuesday.

“I think there is a lot of work. I don’t think you just go from being a non-playoff team to being a Stanley Cup winner,” said Allvin. “I think this is a process over time. Our goal is to be a competitive team over time and [in order to do that] we need to take a big step this year.”

If not “win now,” the Canucks at least need to win soon. From what Allvin said, the team’s front office believes they couldn’t afford to take a step backwards next season in order to be better in the future — the time was right to take a step forward and continue making improvements. To do that, they needed Miller.

From Miller’s standpoint, the team is ready to compete now and it’s a big reason why he wanted to sign a long-term extension.

“I think we still have a ton of confidence from last year,” said Miller. “We talked a lot last year about knowing we have a good team in that locker room and it's just going to get better with time. 

“I think the time maybe is coming a little faster now.”

The Canucks finished five points out of the playoffs last season but played at a torrid pace after a coaching change to Bruce Boudreau, going 32-15-10 — a 106-point pace over 82 games. If the Canucks can play at that pace over a full season — not an easy proposition — they’ll be a playoff team in the coming season and possibly even get home-ice advantage.

“I certainly have a high expectation for our group this year and I'm sure everybody else does as well,” said Miller. “Just really to continue off of how we played when Bruce got there last year.”

"I think the best is yet to come."

Miller suggested that the Canucks are going to "surprise a lot of people this year."

“Winning in the regular season is great but that’s not why we play,” Miller added. “We want to get back to the playoffs and we want to win when it counts. For a lot of guys that haven't played in a playoff building and a playoff series in front of fans, it's a different beast and I think that it's a contagious thing. That's what's so exciting about it, you guys, I think the best is yet to come.”

The Canucks’ lone playoff appearance in the last seven seasons was played in a bubble during the pandemic in front of empty seats and fake crowd noise. It’s understandable that Miller would want to get back in front of a real playoff crowd and introduce the team’s youngest players to that atmosphere.

Ultimately, that meant signing a contract that came in at a lower cap hit than projections were suggesting. For Miller, the money was a secondary concern in contract negotiations.

“It's a lot of money and I feel very fortunate to be in the spot I'm in,” said Miller. “The trumping factor is that I want to be in Vancouver. I love this group of guys and I want to win in Vancouver.”

That’s not to say the size of the contract wasn’t meaningful.

“It's something I didn't realize or didn't ever really think I was capable of earning,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in that. I don't come from a whole lot in my family. It means a lot to us. It's very emotional.”

"It was an amazing week, no doubt."

Miller had other things on his mind this offseason, of course, with his wife giving birth to his new son, Owen, just a few days before he signed his extension.

“I really wasn't focused on whether an extension or whatever was going to happen,” said Miller. “My wife was 38-39 weeks pregnant. I was worried about taking care of her and the kids and getting her to the hospital and whenever the baby was gonna come, so I wasn't very distracted with the contract stuff. It's funny how timing works, that it happens pretty quickly in the same week as the birth of your first son. 

“It was an amazing week, no doubt.”
 

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