Canucks president of hockey operations Jim Rutherford has said for some time he believed his team needed to get a little younger.
Last month I suggested they needed to focus on players 26 years old and younger.
It was a number that stood out to me. In the past, former Canucks GM Jim Benning had cited 26 as well. But in his case, he was implying that that was the age at which he believed players were no longer young.
So I decided to query Rutherford about this.
I wondered if maybe it had to do with what we know about player aging, that the closer they get to 30, the more likely they are to start declining in performance.
It wasn’t about the aging curve, he said.
It’s more about looking at where this team’s core is and how old the players around them should be if they’re going to grow together into a contender in a year or two.
“It’s not a hard fast number, it’s more of a guideline, more of a point that we’re trying to keep an age group that the team can grow together,” he said. “It’s not a hard fast number, there’s going to be guys who are older than that, depending on their role.”
That said, the aging curve is an important consideration in other ways, I have acknowledged.
“It’s when you get into starting a long-term contract there does become more risk later in the long-term contract,” he said of signing players closer to 30 years old. And then he raised an example all on his own from him.
“With JT Miller, we’ve suggested we would like to keep him. He’s been a good player for the Canucks,” he said. “(But) it may not make sense for both sides. This is a time that he’s earned, going into free agency. We’d like to do it but we’ve got to be careful.”
Miller is 29 and is expected to get some big offers in an unrestricted free agency, should he be without a contract in the summer of 2023. He still has one season left on his current contract, with a cap hit of $5.25 million.
There’s plenty of trade value in a player on such a team-friendly deal, even if he doesn’t quite match the astounding 99 points he put up this year. He’s likely to remain an effective offensive force for a few seasons yet — but the uncertainty beyond that is what Rutherford was pointing towards.
And if you read between the lines, it seems pretty clear that the team has a number they simply won’t go beyond.
Earlier in the day, CHEK TV’s Rick Dhaliwal reported that the Canucks are once again listening to trade offers on Miller, something they’ve been open to off and on since before the trade deadline.
Dhaliwal said he checked with Miller’s representatives after hearing that the Canucks were shopping the star forward, who tallied 99 points this past season and has one year left on his contract.
“They are not surprised,” Dhaliwal reported was the reaction from Miller’s camp.
Not upset, just not surprised. And that tells you a lot about where negotiations are at.
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