The hits just keep on coming for the NY Islanders this off-season. First, the Isles hopes were dashed away when they lost out on Johnny Gaudreau who went to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now it's Nazem Kadri who many NHL Insiders said was Long Island-bound but wound up with the Calgary Flames instead.
Islanders president and general manager, Lou Lamoriello, said heading into the off-season improving the team was on his agenda. So far the only improvement (although a good one) has been adding Alexander Romanov to the blue line via trade on draft night.
With Kadri now off the board, if the Isles want to add a difference maker in terms of a forward they are going to have to go the trade route. Kadri was the last unrestricted free agent difference-making forward left that the Islanders, unfortunately, swung and missed on.
Vancouver is Probably the Only Real Option
Training camp is just a month away and most teams have done their significant off-season business when it comes to trades and free agency. It appears one of the only possible trade scenarios for the Islanders in terms of a top-six forward is with the Vancouver Canucks and J.T Miller.
On a recent episode of Dropping the Gloves podcast with John Scott, Miller joined the show to talk about his contract status:
"(Vancouver has) a lot of decisions to make on a lot of players. So far to this point with negotiations, we're not as close as we'd like to be. I'm not 100% sure, everybody has a vision. As I said from day one, I want to be there, I want to be a part of this... That being said, if it's not meant to be I understand that too."- J.T. Miller
Miller is on the last year of his contract ($5.25 million cap hit this season) and is coming off a career year (32 Goals & 99 Points). He also turns 30 years old next March and will be looking for a long-term contract for big bucks. After his comments and the fact that there doesn't appear to be a conclusion nearing on marriage between Vancouver and Miller, it's reasonable to speculate that the Canucks could trade the East Palestine, Ohio native.
Considering Kadri signed a 7-year, $7 million AAV deal, that's a contract Miller and his camp would use in negotiations in order to sign a contract similar, and there's a good chance it would be north of that given that Miller is two-plus years younger than Kadri.
The Canucks are pretty much at the cap ceiling. CapFriendly has Vancouver with a team cap number of $85.2 million ($2.7 million over the cap ceiling) but Micheal Ferland is on LTIR as is his $3.5 million cap hit. So, they'll be cap compliant when the season starts, but any trade with Vancouver would have to be a dollar-in - dollar-out situation, which complicates things even more.
Even if Vancouver is willing to talk turkey in terms of a trade they are going to want to make a hockey trade as Miller doesn't qualify as the kind of player you move in a salary dump. Odds are Vancouver knows in a potential Miller trade they would be moving the best player in the deal. So they could want a proven top-six forward in return along with something else of significance and considering it cost the Flames a first-round pick to move Sean Monahan to the Montreal Canadiens in order to fit Kadri, Vancouver might take that into consideration if they look to deal Miller.
Anthony Beauvillier ($4.15 million cap hit) is a player that Vancouver likely would have interest in having six seasons of NHL experience under his belt, some playoff success, and turning just 25 years old this season. He has two years left of team control versus Miller's one year of control. But Beauvillier alone would not be enough for Vancouver to make such a move. Lamoriello would have to include something else of significance, maybe that's Aatu Räty which at this point would feel like a lot, or William Dufour who has also turned everyone's attention toward him this year as a legitimate NHL prospect.
While Räty may not be ready to help Vancouver come opening night, he certainly looks like he could soon be NHL-ready, maybe as soon as the second half of the season or the beginning of the 2023-24 season. Räty has been projected to be an NHL second-line center and that came before the conclusion of the 2021-22 Liiga season and the success he's having at the IIHF World Junior Championships, meaning his ceiling could be even higher.
Even though the Islanders are deep at center, trading Räty in a package for Miller who will be 30 in a few months and will command a big extension is not a path the Islanders and Lamoriello should go down. To this point, Räty has played himself into a situation where he's too valuable to the Islanders and their future, and although you never know with prospects, the Islanders have too few to sell the one prospect they have with actual promise.
Another route for Lamoriello to take would be to dangle Oliver Wahlstrom. Would the Canucks do a Wahlstrom and Josh Bailey duo for Wahlstrom? Trading Wahlstrom is a very risky move, as he is only 22 years of age and he could become a 30-goal scoring winger. If the Canucks want him, the Islanders reserve the right to make Wahlstrom expensive by trying to attach Bailey's remaining $10 million split over the next two seasons in a trade.
There's no question that adding Miller would be a terrific move for the Islanders. He is a proven top-six winger who can score, add offense, and be great on the power play. At 6'1" and 218 lbs, he plays a rugged two-way game that would fit with the Islanders like a glove and can fill the net to boot. The problem is the Islanders are looking to add a significant offensive player to their core without sacrificing a major part of the future. If a potential Canucks trade for Miller is going to happen the Isles would have to give up a potential part of their future, something they should avoid if it comes in the form of Räty.