Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was a guest on Donnie and Dhali – The Team on Tuesday. Friedman had an interesting nugget on what the Washington Capitals may do to fill the new Nicklas Backstrom-sized hole at the center of their lineup.
The hockey insider mentioned by name both the Vancouver Canucks’ JT Miller and the Colorado Avalanche’s Nazem Kadri as players he has heard have been connected to the Caps this summer.
Friedman said on the show:
JT Miller, I still think it’s a big contract that he’s asking for. I think the Canucks, like some other teams, are worried about term for him.
The team I’ve kind of wondered about, I think a lot of people are wondering about now, [is] Washington [because they] lost Backstrom. Nobody seems to know what the timeline here is. What are they going to do? I’ve heard Kadri’s name connected to the Capitals. I’ve heard Miller’s name connected to the Capitals. I think Washington’s just starting to figure out what are we going to do here? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the kind of guy that’s on their radar.
Miller is coming off a 2021-22 season that saw him barely miss the century mark in points with 99 (32g, 67a) in 80 games. Miller had 31 more points than the next closest Canucks player (Quinn Hughes, 68 points) and topped his previous single-season, career-high by 27 (2019-20 season, 72 points). The 29-year-old center had the ninth most points in the NHL and has just one year left on his contract at $ 5.25 million. With Vancouver in flux as a franchise, they’ll be looking to cash in on him with assets before he possibly leaves for nothing as a free agent.
The American forward did a good chunk of his damage on the power play this season. His 38 power-play points (38) trailed only the Edmonton Oilers’ powerhouse duo of Connor McDavid (44) and Leon Draisaitl (41) league-wide. Miller also led the team in scoring at even strength, posting positive differentials in all relevant five-on-five relative possession analytics (CF, xGF, SCF, HDCF). Miller’s ability to play both the wing and center adds to his value further. There are simply not many forwards in the league better than JT Miller and the Canucks will demand a return that matches that value.
Dreger on Insider Trading says it seems like it’s “open season” for the Canucks, not to be misunderstood as a fire sale, there is strong market interest in both Miller and Boeser and VAN is interested to listen, they’re not looking for picks , they need good young NHL players.
– NHL Watcher (@NHL_Watcher) June 21, 2022
This is not the first time that Friedman has paired the Caps and Canucks in terms of a potential swap. Ahead of the 2022 trade deadline, Friedman reported that the two teams could be partners for a deal that would send scoring help to DC.
On the flip side, there is Nazem Kadri, who unlike Miller, will be an unrestricted free agent and will not require assets other than money to obtain his services. After a couple of disappointing seasons with the Colorado Avalanche (68 points in 107 games), Kadri exploded in 2021-22 with a career year, helping lead the Avs’ to a Stanley Cup Final appearance. Kadri’s 87 points in 71 games marked the first time in his career that he has scored at above a point-per-game pace and his 59 assists topped his previous career-high set with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013-14 (30) by 29. Kadri maintained his point-per-game pace in the postseason (14 in 13 games) before getting hurt, so it’s safe to say he is due for quite the raise on his $ 4.5 million salary.
Kadri is a tenacious playmaking center that other teams hate to play against. With Kadri on the ice five-on-five this season, the Avs saw 57.9-percent of the shot attempts, 54.5-percent of the expected goals, 55.8-percent of the scoring chances, and 53.5-percent of the high danger chances. His 48 five-on-five points saw him tied with players like Alex Ovechkin, Roman Josi, and Artemi Panarin on the league leaders board.
What exactly happens with Backstrom’s $ 9.2 million salary will be up to Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan and we know he intends on exploring all options this summer to make his team better.
“We’ve lost in the first round the last four years,” he said on Breakdown Day in May. “We’re going to explore changes. I don’t think anything is off the table. We’re going to talk to different teams and monitor the trade market. We’re going to identify free agents. We gotta figure out our goalie situation. ”