When Canucks general manager Jim Benning was chief scout of the Buffalo Sabres, he was instrumental in the team’s drafting of a skinny goalie out of Michigan State.
Today, 15 years later, Benning was reunited with that skinny goalie, as Vancouver signed Ryan Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract.
“I know Ryan. I know him as a person,” said Benning. “He’s going to give our team confidence. I think goaltending is the most important position on the team.”
Benning reiterated that his goal is to return Vancouver to the playoffs, adding he “thought it was important to get a goalie with experience” to achieve that objective.
Before Miller signed on with the Canucks, Vancouver’s netminding duo consisted of Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom. While some GMs might’ve been tempted to roll the dice, hope Lack and Markstrom could get the job done, and use the millions in cap space elsewhere, Benning thought otherwise, calling Miller a “player we identified early” and a goalie he was excited to sign.
As for Miller, the 33-year-old is well aware of Vancouver’s “media reputation,” as well as the soap opera involving Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider that came before him. But at the same time, he believes the Canucks are a team that can “get their mojo back” after a disastrous 2013-14 campaign under coach John Tortorella, who’s since been replaced with Willie Desjardins.
“From the top down, I think they have the right attitude in place,” said Miller, while making reference to the “system” the Canucks played under Tortorella — a system the Canucks’ braintrust clearly believes was to blame for much of the team’s struggles.
Miller also spoke about his short stint with the Blues, noting that while his failure to help St. Louis in last year’s playoffs will always “sting,” he believes that “one moment doesn’t define you.”
He added that he’s “always developing as a player and a person” and “very open to any help I can get”; as such, he’s looking forward to working with Vancouver’s goalie coach, Rollie Melanson.
Benning, meanwhile, isn’t done dealing. Unable to convince Jarome Iginla to sign with the Canucks, he said he’ll turn his attention to the “secondary market” to add scoring.