The Toronto Maple Leafs Should Trade For Colin Miller

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 06: Vegas Golden Knights Defenceman Colin Miller (6) passes the puck during the NHL regular season game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 6, 2018, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 06: Vegas Golden Knights Defenceman Colin Miller (6) passes the puck during the NHL regular season game between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 6, 2018, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Maple Leafs could use some more help on the blueline, and there is one defenseman who would fit the bill perfectly.

It has been over a week since the Toronto Maple Leafs season ended at the hands of the Boston Bruins (again). Due to a combination of defensive miscues and a poor performance from the special teams all series, the Leafs yet again let an opportunity to exorcise their demons slip their grasp.

It’s not like they didn’t try. In fact, they did just about everything right in terms of their 5v5 play. One of the main causes of the Leafs demise was the lack of defensive support in front of Frederik Andersen, who continues to search for his first career Game 7 victory.

That’s why it is not surprising to hear that Chris Johnston is reporting the possibility of big changes to the Leafs roster during the offseason. Regardless of which part of the roster sees the most drastic turnover, there will be new faces donning the Blue and White for the 2019-20 season.

One such player that would fit the bill perfectly to help the Leafs improve is defenseman Colin Miller of the Vegas Golden Knights. He is the exact type of player the Leafs could have really used this season and, judging by his usage from his current team this past campaign, he just might be available.

And if that is the case, the Leafs absolutely need to be all in on trading for Miller this summer.

The Missing Piece on the Blueline

Miller was a healthy scratch by the Golden Knights a few times this season, most notably for Game 1 of the playoffs. This was an odd choice for Vegas to make because he was playing well when active.

In an injury-shortened season, the 26-year-old registered 3 goals, 26 assists (13 of which were primary), for 29 points in 65 games. During the 2019 playoffs, he recorded 1 goal and 2 assists (both primary assists) for 3 points in six games.

At 5v5, Miller posted strong underlying numbers all across the board. He finished the campaign with a 56.01 CF%, a 55.38 FF%, a 51.22 GF%, a 56.77 xGF%, a 55.60 SCF%, a 59.06 HDCF%, and a 50.94 HDGF%. In simple terms, he was one of the Golden Knights’ more dependable options on the back end all season long.

In the playoffs, all of the aforementioned numbers took significant boosts at 5v5 and he was one of their top performers against the San Jose Sharks. Whilst his team ultimately bowed out in 7 games, it’s safe to say he was not the reason for Vegas’ demise.

Miller stands at 6’1” and 196 pounds, and he uses every bit of his frame to his advantage. He’s had a knack for being able to neutralize attacks both in his own end and in neutral ice, while also delivering big hits and blasting slap-shots from the point.

Going further, Miller’s on-ice presence resulted in an abundance of scoring chances in high danger areas compared to when he’s off the ice. Additionally, he has been effective at neutralizing shots against from in tight and on the right-hand side both at 5v5 and on the PK. All the while, he has been able to elevate his defence partners and the key forwards on Vegas.

To top everything off, Miller’s contract would be able to fit in nicely under the Leafs’ tight salary cap. Entering year two of his 4-year deal, Miller will only account for $3.875M AAV, which is a steal of a contract given his services.

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that he is a right-shot defenseman, hails from Sault Ste. Marie, and played for Kyle Dubas’ Greyhounds in the OHL.

Simply put, he is the exact kind of defenseman the Leafs are looking for.

The Cost and Impact

So we know that Miller makes a lot of sense for the Leafs to go after based on a multitude of reasons listed above, but what has to go the other way in a trade to make it happen?

Let’s consider for a moment that the Golden Knights’ biggest position of strength is on the back end, both on the main roster and in the farm system. Multiple Vegas beat writers argue that because of this, Miller could be on the move this offseason.

On the flip side, the Leafs’ biggest position of strength is their forward depth, especially on the right wing. This has been the case for quite some time now and an area the Leafs could feel comfortable sacrificing to improve the defence.

The thing is, the Leafs will also need to move some salary the other way to offset the cap influx that would come from such a move. Toronto has two such players in Nikita Zaitsev and Connor Brown, thus one of them would need to be included.

So a hypothetical trade could probably look like this: Connor Brown, Pierre Engvall, and a third-round pick in exchange for Colin Miller. 

By no means is this the be-all and end-all trade scenario, but at the very least this could be a starting point of conversation between Kyle Dubas and Vegas’ new GM, Kelly McCrimmon.

Here’s the thing, the Leafs have had an interest in Miller for quite some time, dating back to the 2017 Expansion Draft. Targeting him made sense at the time, as it did during this year’s trade deadline and should continue to be the case this summer.

This is because they need to find a way to replace Jake Gardiner’s on-ice value as he is likely to depart for free agency. While he’s not the same player, Miller could offset the loss of Gardiner in a noticeable way.

It could result in him slotting alongside Travis Dermott on the second pairing, which would be fun to watch. Adding Miller to a defence core that also includes Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin would equate to one of the better units assembled in recent Leafs history.

Plus, there are no guarantees prospects such as Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren will make the leap to the big club next season. Meanwhile, Calle Rosen is still an LHD and the other alternatives in Justin Holl and Martin Marincin simply won’t be enough.

For quite some time, it’s been well-established that the Leafs need to acquire a top-4 right-shot defenseman if they want to increase their chances for a deep playoff run. While the Muzzin trade in January was a step in the right direction, it did not fill a hole that desperately needs to be filled.

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Miller is the exact player that could fill said hole due to his strong play based on the numbers and the eye test. The cost to acquire him wouldn’t be as high as some other big-ticket defenseman and could help mitigate the probable exodus of Gardiner.

Should the Golden Knights decide to put Miller on the market, the Leafs have to kick the tires on acquiring his services. It would be a golden opportunity to get the missing piece of the puzzle that is the Leafs’ blue line.

All stats unless otherwise noted are from and Natural Stat Trick.

All salary numbers are from Cap Friendly.

All shot charts are from