Sports

Report: Ryan Miller meeting with Vancouver Canucks; What about Lack/Markstrom?

Ryan Miller might have his eyes on Vancouver and the Canucks. - Wikimedia Commons (author Michael Miller)
Ryan Miller might have his eyes on Vancouver and the Canucks.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons (author Michael Miller)

With the Vancouver Canucks clearly iffy about wading into an uncertain 2015 season with an unproven goalie tandem in Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom – at least, that's what we keep hearing them referred to as, unproven – it seems the Ryan Miller show is stopping in B.C. for a quick meeting, a wine and dine, and maybe even something long-term, emotional, and monogamous.

After Sunday's reports that Miller was "being wooed" by the Canucks' brass in Vancouver, which followed last week's reports that Benning and his team had officially reached out to Miller's agent – former NHL goalie Mike Liut – it now looks like the Vezina Trophy winner is really in the city and definitely having talks with said brass.

Miller would be an upgrade over both Lack and Markstrom, in stature at least.

He was named the NHL's goalie of the year in 2010, the same year he backstopped Team USA to a silver medal in Vancouver at the Winter Olympics. He's also been in two Eastern Conference Finals, in 2006 and 2007.

Miller wants to play on the west coast. Ideally, his zip code would actually be a postal code, and somewhere in Californa. His wife is actress Noureen DeWulf. But the San Jose Sharks are rebuilding (i.e. not interested in Miller) and the Anaheim Ducks are flush with younger studs like John Gibson and Frederik Andersen. The Los Angeles Kings have won two Stanley Cups in the past three years with Jonathan Quick in net.

So, Vancouver it is. Or, Vancouver it could be.

There is reportedly interest going Miller's way, too, and that interest extends to the past. New Canucks general manager Jim Benning was the Sabres' Director of Amateur Scouting in 1999, when the team drafted Miller way down the board, at 138th overall.

Even though the goalie has seemingly struggled in the past three seasons, keep in mind that he was playing for Buffalo, after all. And his numbers on a playoff-less Sabres team are not just respectable but they deserve applause.

Last year, Miller's save percentage in upstate New York was a 0.923, just a sliver shy of the 0.929 he had during this Vezina year in 2010, when Buffalo won their division with 100 points. Sure, it dropped when he arrived in Missouri, but if the Canucks are looking for proven – someone to keep the seat warm for Eddie Lack or Thatcher Demko, who Vancouver drafted 36th overall last weekend – then Miller would be an excellent stop-gap.

But is he really an upgrade over Lack?

Keep in mind, Lack was just a rookie last year and he managed four shutouts on a mediocre Vancouver team, and he was the Canucks' best player most nights. But the fact that he sputtered down the stretch – along with the entire team, mind you – and that he appeared to wilt under the grind of starting 19 straight games for John Tortorella's platoon, well that leads you to think he's perhaps more suited to a 20-30 game haul, at least right now.

Keep in mind, he's only 26 – a full seven years younger than Miller, and the same age Schneider was when he became Vancouver's starter – and he didn't play in his first NHL game until last October.

"I can't say that Ryan Miller is a definitive upgrade over Lack, but I can say that at this point, he will be an upgrade over Markstrom," writes Ryan Biech, reporter for VanCity Buzz. "He will provide a stabilizing presence in net and has shown in the past that he can ultimately carry a team (which this Canucks team may need to make the playoffs)."

Markstrom would be the goalie of the future on most teams, still, but the Canucks currently have two of those guys.

As Riech and Province reporter Jason Botchford point out, any contract Miller signs with Vancouver would have to be in the three-year range, and probably for an unrealistically low number like $4 million or just above.

Miller may not want to do that, but he also might not have many options. Unless he realizes that, you know what, he's 33 years old and he only has to deal with a long-distance relationship for five years more or so until he retires. And if he can get bigger money somewhere else, he could afford to leave the game at 38.

(While Miller's salary is an important number to keep in mind, also remember that the Canucks have to re-sign three key restricted free agents – Chris Tanev, Zack Kassian, and new import Linden Vey – and have about $17.75 million to do all of this.)

When Miller left Buffalo, it was thought he didn't just want a Western address, but he also wanted to join a contender. The Canucks are not one, but Miller might help get them there. And clearly he's confident – so you have to think he's a "the party don't start 'till I walk in" kind of guy.

And anyway, he's in town. Discussions have clearly taken place, and interest is obviously mutual.

Just over a year ago, Vancouver employed both Roberto Luongo and franchise goalie-to-be Cory Schneider. They imploded that department rather unintentionally, almost like Mikhail Gorbachev dismantling the Soviet Union, but now they have the chance to grab another established full-time pad-stacker and make it all look like it happened according to plan, almost like Mikhail Gorbachev dismantling the Soviet Union.

Will Ryan Miller be the next starting goaltender of the Vancouver Canucks?

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