The Vancouver Canucks have reached an agreement with veteran goaltender Ryan Miller on a three-year contract.
SportsNet Hockey Central provided details of the free-agent signing:
Ryan Miller to Vancouver, per @RealKyper— Hockey Central (@SNHockeyCentral) July 1, 2014
Lyle Richardson of Spector's Hockey also had the contract details for Miller:
Ryan Miller to Vancouver, 3 years, $6 million per.— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) July 1, 2014
The Canucks later confirmed Miller's deal via the team website.
Following the move, Vancouver general manager Jim Benning and Miller spoke about the deal (via the Canucks):
“Ryan is a player we identified early. He will be instrumental to the success of our team going forward.” - Benning— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 1, 2014
“I’m still developing into the best player I can be.” - Miller— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 1, 2014
“We’re going to do everything we can to make the team competitive. It was important to get a goalie who has experience.” - Benning— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 1, 2014
“This became an easy choice when Vancouver reached out. As a player, you want to be with a team that wants you.” - Miller— Vancouver Canucks (@VanCanucks) July 1, 2014
Ben Kuzma of The Province broke down what the move means for the Canucks:
Miller was a longtime member of the Buffalo Sabres, but the Sabres traded him to the St. Louis Blues ahead of last season's trade deadline. Buffalo is currently in all-out rebuilding mode, while St. Louis was looking to upgrade in goal for a run at the Stanley Cup.
Things didn't work out for Miller or the Blues. The netminder struggled to acclimate to his new surroundings. He posted a .903 save percentage in 19 games after the trade, which would have represented the worst full-season mark of his career.
The playoffs didn't bring better results. He played a subpar series as the Chicago Blackhawks eliminated St. Louis in six games.
Given the lack of success following the move, the Blues opted to extend goalie Brian Elliott rather than re-sign Miller. At the same time, there were questions about exactly how much the Michigan native could demand after the forgettable stint in St. Louis.
Mike Brehm of USA Today passed along comments from Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, who admitted the trade didn't work out:
Hindsight is 20-20, but at the time, we felt comfortable with the deal. At the end of the day, we didn't get to where we wanted to as an organization. It was a lot to give up for 20-some games and six playoff games.
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall after the quick exit, Miller thanked the city for its support during what turned out to be a short stay:
Thank you Blues fans for supporting us and especially welcoming me to your city. It is an awesome place to play. Great passion and pride!— Ryan Miller (@RyanMiller3039) April 29, 2014
Now Miller gets a chance at another fresh start. The question is whether he can return to his Buffalo form, when he was one of the best goalies in the league, or if his struggles in St. Louis were a sign of things to come as he enters his mid-30s.
That uncertainty likely caused Miller to lose out on some money on the free-agent market. His track record is strong, but there was definitely added risk after he failed to stand out in St. Louis.
What do you think of the Miller signing?
More than likely the poor play was due to changing teams in the middle of the season. Miller is a very cerebral player. Being forced to change teams to one with a different playing style than he dealt with in Buffalo for 10-plus seasons certainly must have had an impact on the mental side of his game.
This situation is obviously different as he gets a chance to settle in before the season and then enter training camp with a fresh perspective. A more standard change of teams bodes well for his chances of bouncing back next season.
Whether he's still one of the top goalies in the league is up for debate. Yet even if he gets off to a sluggish start, he should return to a top-10 level once he settles in. That's good enough to push a team up a spot or two in the standings over the course of the season.
The outlook will be even brighter if Miller plays at a Vezina level, which he did quite frequently during his days with the Sabres.
Regardless, Miller should add stability to a Vancouver team that experienced a lot of discussion around the use of former goaltender Roberto Luongo, a saga that consumed the franchise before it traded him to Florida in March.