The trade deadline is just four days away but the Vancouver Canucks might not be making that many trades.
A couple of months ago, when the Canucks were mired in the basement of the NHL standings, it seemed obvious that the team would be major sellers at the deadline but they have climbed back into contention with a stellar record under head coach Bruce Boudreau.
If the Canucks do make a deal or two, don't expect J.T. Miller to be involved. Miller has been lights out in recent weeks with 27 points during a 13-game streak, working his way up to 7th in the NHL in scoring with a total of 24 goals and 73 points in 59 games. With the Canucks still in the playoff picture, it would be nearly unthinkable for them to trade away their leading scorer.
In any case, it seems unlikely that any Cup contending team could afford to give the Canucks anywhere near what Miller's worth in a trade.
Speaking of not being able to afford Miller, the Canucks have a tough decision ahead of them. Miller has one more year on his contract, which pays him a paltry $5.25 million per year. If the Canucks want to re-sign Miller, however, he won't come cheap.
If that wasn't already clear, the new contract for Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks crystallized it.
Hertl is currently second on the Sharks in scoring with 48 points in 59 games. The Sharks signed him to an eight-year contract extension worth just over $8.1 million per year. That will immediately vault Hertl into the upper echelon of the league, landing him just inside the top 30 in cap hit among NHL forwards.
It's a risky bet because Hertl is 28 and will turn 29 early next season. The bulk of his new contract will carry him through his 30's and he will be 36 when it expires. The risk is that Hertl, like even some of the best players in the NHL, will decline in his 30's and the Sharks will be paying him first-line forward money for second-line (or worse) performance.
Here's the issue for the Canucks: if Hertl is worth $8.1 million per year, how much is Miller worth?
If you don't think Hertl's contract has anything to do with Miller, his agent, Brian Bartlett, might disagree. After it was suggested that Miller's agent might be dreaming of piles of cash after seeing Hertl's contract, Bartlett responded with a single gif: Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire screaming, "Show me the money!"
Now, that tweet came from Bartlett's personal Twitter account. But it was then quote-tweeted from the company account, suggesting that he was stirring the pot.
Jerry Maguire is, of course, about a sports agent — the titular Maguire himself — who is asked to negotiate a contract on behalf of his lone client, Rod Tidwell, played by Cuba Gooding, Jr, who specifically wants $10 million.
At this point, Miller could probably ask for $10 million too.
It's not that outrageous. Over the past three seasons, Hertl has 60 goals and 127 points in 157 games — 0.81 points per game. In that same time, Miller has tallied 66 goals and 191 points in 181 games — 1.06 points per game. Miller produces 1.31 times as many points as Hertl; does he deserve $10.6 million per year, which is 1.31 times Hertl's contract?
Just 11 players have scored more points over the last three seasons than J.T. Miller and they're a who's who of the best players in the game. This next contract is likely Miller's last chance to cash in on a big contract and it's hard to imagine him — or his agent — asking for less than what he's worth.
Certainly, there's more to the game than points. Hertl is a better defensive player than Miller and has fantastic underlying puck possession numbers. That said, Miller also brings a lot to the table beyond points. He's a fiery and outspoken leader, plays in all situations, and is one of the best faceoff men in the league.
Could Miller get a similar contract to that of Anze Kopitar, who signed with the Los Angeles Kings for $10 million per year on an eight-year deal at the age of 29? What about Mika Zibanejad, who signed for $8.5 million per year for eight years at 29 with the New York Rangers? Miller's production is on par with both of them.
For the Canucks, it's less a question of how much they would be willing to pay Miller now but how much they would be willing to pay Miller in his mid-to-late 30's, when he's unlikely to be scoring like the elite first-line forward he is now. If his contract demands go up in response to Hertl, that could hurt.