Pittsburgh-area native J.T. Miller is unlikely to become a Penguin. A few months ago, however, Ron Hextall almost made it happen.
Miller came one point shy of his first triple-digit season in 2021-22, a feat that earned him a seven-year contract extension that kicks in next campaign and earns him $8 million per year until he is 37.
The Penguins wanted to take that deal on but could not work out a deal with the Canucks, per Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman.
“We know it was a hugely-complicated move, very difficult to pull off,” Friedman wrote in his 32 Thoughts earlier this week. “But, at the base of it all, the Canucks made a huge ask... I believe two firsts and a good prospect.”
Friedman concluded: “At the end of the day, I just don’t think the Penguins wanted to go there.”
Miller recorded his second consecutive point-per-game and 30-goal campaign this season with 32 goals and 50 assists in 81 outings.
The Penguins currently hold first-round picks in each of their next three drafts, a precious commodity for a team that has only selected in the opening round three times in the past decade.
In terms of who the “good prospect” would have been, the Penguins have some of the shallowest depth in the NHL, but the best choices for Vancouver might have been 2022 first-round pick Owen Pickering, a former All-Rookie who has yet to get a real shot with the Penguins in Ty Smith, or Filip Hallander, who returned from a serious injury in January with something to prove.
Daily Faceoff’s Frank Servalli said on the DFO Rundown Hockey Podcast earlier this month, h/t Daily Hive, that the Penguins were “really interested” in the potential deal, to the point where they were discussing dumping Jason Zucker’s $5.5 million cap hit to clear room for Miller.
“I think they got as far deep between the Penguins and Canucks that the Canucks were trying to figure out where they could move Jason Zucker around trade deadline time,” Servalli said.
Miller grew up in East Palestine, Ohio, just 40 miles from Pittsburgh. He told Sportsnet 360 last week that he does not believe he is getting traded this offseason.
Given that the Penguins will be operating under an entirely new front office in the near future, it’s impossible to predict whether or not the 2023-24 team will want to pursue Miller— but it seems likely that the strong push to get him in Pittsburgh left with Ron Hextall.