LA Kings J.T. Miller

When the news broke out that the LA Kings were in search of a high-scoring forward, the trade proposals and the guessing game began.

It was already obvious that the Kings were looking at potential suitors for some LD’s, but what really stuck out was that the Kings were looking for a scorer.

For the finish-less LA Kings, it’s reassuring to see that the management group is aware of the scoring struggles that the Kings have had this year. Rob Blake and Co. need to find ways to solve this issue.

With the Kings being dead last in the NHL in finishing– or better yet, goals scored above expected– it cost them some games. Finding a goal scorer would be crucial for the team because not only would it help the Kings capitalize on their golden opportunities, but it would even go as far as helping the team grab extra points in the standings. 

There haven’t been immoderate names thrown around when it comes to the scoring forward that the Kings are looking for. Still, a bulk of players have reportedly been made available by other general managers across the NHL. 

One of those names that have been thrown around, is J.T Miller of the Vancouver Canucks.

The 28-year-old has been with the Canucks for two and a half seasons now, and previously, he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers. When Miller was drafted 15th overall by the Rangers in 2011, he was coming off a 35 point season with the US National Development program. He was off to the OHL the following year, where he recorded 62 points in 61 games. 

He then had a slow and steady path up to the NHL, playing in three scattered AHL seasons before cracking the Rangers roster as a permanent player. Miller was with the Rangers organization for four and half seasons before getting moved to the Lightning in the infamous Ryan McDonagh trade. 

Miller spent the rest of that 2017-18 season with the Bolts, as well as the following season. In 94 games with Tampa, Miller tallied 65 points before getting traded to the Vancouver Canucks at the 2019 NHL draft. He was moved for a conditional first and a few other pieces, but he was the centerpiece of the trade. 

Acquiring Miller was one of Jim Benning’s best moves as the Canucks GM– even though there weren’t too many of those. Miller has appeared in 167 games with the Canucks, and has scored 164 points in his time there. Despite being one of Vancouver’s best point producers, there have been serious rumors that the new management group there has intensely mediated moving the forward in hopes of clearing some cap space while receiving capital compensation.

Although the Kings haven’t been reported to have any interest in the player, there is a real possibility that LA could make a push for him. The Canucks are ostensibly asking for a first-round pick and a high-level prospect for Miller, and the Kings have both and more. 

Even though Miller’s proved himself as a scorer and a player that can rack up- points, the Kings cannot and should not trade for Miller.

The truth is that JT Miller hasn’t been as good of a player as some people suggest him to be. He exerts in the defensive zone, he feeds off of the powerplay, and he shows little to no effort when he’s needed most.

Miller has been having a better season than last year, but his defensive skill is nonexistent. Granted, his bigger stats look fine, with his wins above replacement being 73% according to Jfresh and his model, his micro-stats are worse than you think.

*Photo Credit: Jfresh Hockey

Miller doesn’t contribute to as many shots as he should, and even when he does, they aren’t nearly as beneficial to the team as they should be. He also fails to break the puck into the offensive zone. The only time that he does break it in successfully is on the rare occasion that he connects with a pass.

His cycle is always great. It’s one of his best strengths. He repeatedly knows how to figure out a play to tire out the defenseman and make a play, but when it comes to the forechecking, he always falls flat and can’t find a way to get the puck past the goalie in those situations.

His micro-stats don’t favor him, and for his asking price, it’s best to stay away. Relatively, the entire Canucks team has struggled with the smaller bits of the game, but you’d expect much more from this so-called “superstar.”

Miller’s a fantastic player. The things he does on the ice are magical. His offensive skill has so many good looks and it feels like he always finds a way to get a nifty move off.

But when he gets upset, he hurts the team. One thing I’ve noticed from watching Miller is how he always quits on the game and the team when he’s losing or when he messes up. He doesn’t go back to try and fix his mistake; instead, he gives up and loses all of his momentum. 

For example, this goal that Johnny Gaudreau scored against the Canucks quite recently:

Miller carelessly went in to try and pull off a 1 on 3, in 3 on 3 overtime, fumbled the puck, lost his stick, and decided not to backcheck at all. Instead, he complained to the referee and wasted his time.

Miller had enough time to get back and attempt to pressure the Flames players, but he chose to complain and went for an awful line change.

That simple little play cost the Canucks the entire game. 

Miller does that sort of stuff quite often.

Does the good he does outweigh the bad? I’d argue it does, but when you have a team like the LA Kings who are losing some awkward games, you don’t want to see Miller giving away the puck all the time and slowing down the team.

Another red flag is his future contract. His current deal is peachy perfect for what he’s been worth this year. At $5.25 million AAV for this year and next year, that deal seems and is a steal. You’re getting a point per game player for just over $5 million. What’s not to like? I’ll tell you what’s not to like: the next contract that he’ll sign.

These types of players ask for up to 8 or 9 million dollars on the open market and at a long-term deal. The Kings won’t be able to afford that. Paying a 30-year-old anything over 7 million (unless he’s a bonafide star with proof that he won’t regress) for more than five years will murder the salary cap. 

The NHL age curve suggests that the average NHL player begins his decline at around the 32-year-old mark, and if the Kings give Miller 7 or 8 years, they’ll be paying a declining, aging forward who won’t live up to expectations for 4 or 5 years more than he should. With the ending of entry-level contracts and the hope to grow the team using other players from trades and free agency, the Kings would be crazy to spend roughly 10% of their salary cap on an aging forward.

The Kings are much safer trading for a younger player who’s a little bit weaker than Miller and spending less rather than trying to outbid five other teams on a player whose prime is about to end. I’ll be honest: I want the Kings to make the playoffs and go far.

The truth is that a team must make sacrifices when going for the glorious Stanley Cup. JT Miller is not one of those players that the Kings should give away picks and multiple prospects for. There’s way too much risk in that, and it’ll be a safer bet to rely on the younger players blooming than betting away all of your prospects and picks on a declining forward currently keeping a steady pace.

Whoever does get JT Miller, will receive a fantastic offensive player who can record a high number of points while creating plays down low. But, they will also lose a lot of their valuable assets, which isn’t a great thing.

These teams that will be trying to trade for Miller are basically playoff locks, so they’ll be more comfortable with bringing him in. The Kings aren’t exactly there yet. Trading away great prospects and high picks for a possible declining forward should not be an option for the LA Kings.

It’s too much of a risk, and the Kings are safer not making the move.

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