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Trade: Lightning free up cap space by sending Miller to Canucks

Tampa Bay Lightning v Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 27: J.T. Miller #10 of the Tampa Bay Lightning in action during the NHL game against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena on October 27, 2018 in Glendale, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Lightning 7-1. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Saturday seems all right for freeing up cap space.

It’s no Elton John classic, but it seems to be a popular hit among National Hockey League general managers on the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft as the Tampa Bay Lightning followed the Nashville Predators and loosened their cap belt by trading J.T. Miller to the Vancouver Canucks for prospect goalie Marek Mazanec, a 2019 third-round pick and a conditional first rounder in 2020.

The Canucks are set to take on the full of Miller’s $5.25 million cap hit over the next four years, which is key for the Lightning.

Tampa had just $5.876 million to play with before the trading of Miller and they’ve yet to sign restricted free agent Brayden Point, who could be in the $9 million range per season.

This is not to mention some of other issues they’re going to have in the future, including a big-money extension for Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will be a restricted free agent after next season.

The Lightning already shed $5.8 million by moving Ryan Callahan to the long-term injured-reserve list earlier this week.

For the Canucks, the trade is good in the sense they get a solid player in Miller, but not so great that they had to give up a conditional first-round pick for him. The Canucks are rebuilding and rebuilding teams shouldn’t be trading opening round picks. See: Ottawa.

“J.T. Miller is an experienced and versatile offensive contributor,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in a release from the club. “This deal is about acquiring a player who can have an immediate impact on our top six forward group for term. The pick we’ve given is conditional meaning if we’re involved in the 2020 draft lottery, it moves to 2021 as a 1st round selection.”

So there are the terms of the conditional pick. It takes away some immediate risk for the Canucks. The 2021 pick, however, is not lottery protected.

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Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck.