The signing of Ryan Miller was one of the first signature moves of the Jim Benning era in Vancouver. Like most of the moves Benning has made as Canucks general manager, it was criticized, with many feeling a $6 million cap hit could be better deployed elsewhere on the roster. But Benning wanted “a goalie with experience,” and Miller certainly had that.
Fast forward to the present and Miller, 36, is still the starter in Vancouver, but now he’s a pending unrestricted free agent. The Canucks, meanwhile, are off to a miserable start, 6-10-1 in their first 17 games, and they’ve barely held a lead all season. Miller is 2-7-0 with an .899 save percentage. He was very good in October, but his play, as well as the defensive structure in front of him, has deteriorated in November.
So, what does the future hold for Miller?
It’s hard to say.
“It’s not something that Jim or anybody is really concerned about at the moment,” Miller told TSN 1040 on Wednesday. “I’m not really sure what their plans are, so it’s hard to say what mine would be. I’ve enjoyed my time here, but I don’t know what their long-term plan would be. I think it’s more dependent on what kind of hockey we’re playing. I gotta get my game to a high level.”
Expect Miller’s future to become more of a topic if the Canucks don’t turn it around. It’s possible he could be dealt at the deadline, though that’s far less likely if his numbers don’t improve. Miller also has a limited no-trade clause, not to mention there was that stint as a rental in St. Louis which didn’t go so well. So even if the Canucks do trade him, it won’t be for much.
Another option for Vancouver would be to re-sign him. After all, Jacob Markstrom has yet to prove he can be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, and the Canucks still need to give Thatcher Demko time to develop in the AHL.
If not, perhaps Anaheim would bring him aboard to form a tandem with John Gibson. Miller’s wife is an actress, so California has always been considered a potential destination. He’d have to take a pay-cut, though. And the Ducks may choose to re-sign Jonathan Bernier (2-1-0, .934) anyway.
What about Las Vegas? That’s close to Hollywood. But with NHL teams only allowed to protect one goalie in the expansion draft, George McPhee will likely have better alternatives.
But that’s a story for a bit further down the road.
“It’s still very early in the season,” Miller said. “I’d like to stand in there and steal some games when I can, just trying to get things going here.”
Unfortunately for Miller, he won’t get that opportunity tonight against Arizona. He’s reportedly at home with the flu. The Canucks have recalled Michael Garteig from ECHL Alaska to back up Markstrom.