With free agents flying off the board, the Canucks go big on a goalie. But why?

It took just over an hour into the free agent frenzy for the Canucks to finally dip their toes into the water, and join the others in spending money on deals that’ll for the most part range between ‘looking regrettable immediately’ and ‘inevitably becoming financial burdens down the road’.

With some intriguing names – such as Mike Cammalleri, Ales Hemsky, Jussi Jokinen, Benoit Pouliot, Christian Ehrhoff, and Tom Gilbert – that could’ve legitimately helped out a roster that needs ample fixing all flying off of the board, the Canucks instead chose to focus their efforts on handing out a handsome amount of money to a goalie.

Ryan Miller is a Canuck. It could’ve been worse, I guess, but..

We spent an infinite amount of words discussing the potential of a union between Ryan Miller and the Canucks yesterday in previewing the spending frenzy, and you can find that here. The connection between Jim Benning and Ryan Miller makes sense, and the uneasy feeling that going into the season with a pairing that has 78 combined NHL starts under their belt is a totally reasonable one, but this particular signing reeks of missing the plot. 

Ryan Miller is a fine goalie. He’s one of the few players at the position that has managed to perform in a consistent manner from year to year. There’s certainly value in that, and considering the question marks that the Lack and Markstrom duo present, Miller’s established play is accentuated even further. The problem, though, is that I think some people are having a difficult time shaking the memory of what Ryan Miller was back in that otherworldly ’09-’10 when he was playing out of his skull. It’s interesting what has happened since then:

Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 10.23.27 AM

What Miller really is, is a slightly above average league goaltender at this point. One that’s turning 34 in a few weeks, and could conceivably be headed towards the downslope of his career at any point now. That’s a concerning thought, because he doesn’t exactly have a lot of wiggle room to decline and still maintain the value he used to present. 

Miller’s $6 million hit isn’t a great one, since it makes him the 6th highest paid player at the position. Considering how suppressed the list of teams that were looking for a number one goaltender was, it’s hard to believe that Miller was receiving better offers than that from anyone else. Especially since Jonas Hiller received a far more team friendly deal from the Calgary Flames just a few minutes later. But whether it was Benning, or Linden, or the ownership group, someone clearly felt the need to bring in a big name that they could sell to the casual fanbase heading into next season. Miller probably does that, until he has his first little bad stretch as a Canuck, and just how sensitive he really is gets put to the test. 

If there’s one saving grace to come from this deal, it’s that it only runs for 3 years. In that regard it could’ve been a lot worse. But still, poor Eddie Lack will be turning 30 before Ryan Miller comes off of the books. This’ll be sold as a move that’ll have added value in that it helps “groom” Lack, which seems silly when you realize just how old Lack already is. With this transaction, and the reported interest in someone like Jarome Iginla, it’s fair to wonder whether the guys pulling the strings are properly gauging how their team stacks up in the Western Conference’s hierarchy. 

The Canucks now have 11+ million dollars left to spend against the cap, and they’ll need to, because who the heck is going to score a goal in front of Ryan Miller next season?

      • argoleas

        I really am getting tired of your constant negativism. This is not reporting it is venting. Canucks picked up a top 10 goalie for three years meeting the number one need that the pundits and a number of your colleagues all named. “Don’t depend only on the young Swede goalies”. Now its why didn’t you pick Hiller over Miller. Well how much did Hiller play in the playoffs? He has also been injured in the past. Miller helps us in the transition to a more settled, younger team and it gives Lack time to develop. If we remove the Torts effect, which probably cost the Canucks about 40 goals, then they will be fine. I expect the top line to improve 25%, and Kesler was a shadow of his previous self last year. Bonino and Vey will match and slightly improve his goal totals and they can pass. Sbisa is an improvement on Garrison. So give the team and the GM a break.

        • argoleas

          Agreed. I see the Captain if Whiner Nation is in vintage form yet again.

          There are so many issues with this article…it’s laughable. The best part is, everyone whines but doesn’t offer a better option. Hell, they just think the sky is falling.

          So, what would Whiner Nation do? Play GM here. What would you do?

          I am quite sure Benning was told we better put an entertaining product on the ice and sell tickets. That eliminates total tanking. The easiest way to make a team competitive is sure-up the goalie position. The Swedish tandem is way too unproven and something tells me the Canucks will have to rely heavily on the goalie.

          Kesler, essentially, gave Benning 1 team to work with. I don’t mind the ultimate resolution there and the malcontent is gone. Good riddance.

          Most of today’s FA’s were making stupid money. I have no idea what Washington is thinking. Also, this crops of FA’s was fairly weak so why overpay so much. Add to that, the Canucks aren’t contenders and the chances of being an FA’s top choice are pretty slim.

          Similar scenarios have been playing out in the NHL over and over for years. There is no quick fix. They will slowly add pieces as we go along. If it all falls apart then maybe the Canucks can deal some pieces at the deadline and gear up for the draft. I can see some NTC guys waive if we start sinking again.

          • acg5151

            Yep, all I read is “screw Miller”, and that’s it. There definitely isn’t the argument that they should’ve signed a Greiss or similar goalie for cheap to share the crease, or anything else.

            Once again, your masterful critical reading skills have saved the day.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Oh well. It’s at least stability in net. It’s not ideal at that cap hit, but it will give the Canucks above-avg goaltending for two uears (the third is when he likely goes Barasso).

  • acg5151

    Moving sideways instead of forward. And all for the low low price of 18million over 3 years.

    The Canucks will be hard pressed to make the playoffs if they are battling against Buffalo and Florida for lowest scoring team in the league again. Particularly when Dallas, Anaheim and St. Louis all took big steps forward this summer. Our only hope now is for our goalies to have a Vezina quality season dragging the team into the playoffs.

    Drafting locals over more skilled foreigners, signing a beloved rookie president, and signing an expensive big name goalie. The common thread= marketing moves to please the casual fan. Either that or just bad management decisions.

    In management’s defence, few of the top scorers likely wanted to join the tire fire this organization has become. Which is unfortunate as I feel we are a 2nd line center and top-6 winger away from being a good team (which of course is not easy to get).

    Could be worse…could have bought a third line center for 5.5 million over 5 years…

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    At this stage of their respective careers I don’t think it’s clear that Miller is better than Jonas Hiller, who it was clear would be cheaper by enough money that it could make a difference in future moves. Hiller also has a history of being laid back, not excitable, perhaps a better fit for playing goal in the prickly Vancouver market than Miller, as well as being a year and a half younger.

    Yes, Vancouver certainly appeared to need a goalie and they got a good one. If Hiller wasn’t interested in Vancouver this looks like a reasonable signing, but if Hiller might have been available that might have been a better fit.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Is Vancouver the overreaction capital of the world? Likely.

    We’ve made one stinking free agency signing today for a decent veteran goaltender. Too much money? Of course! It’s a FA signing. Too much term? Yes, but only by a year.

    Do we still have a ton of cap space? Yes. Are there a couple of decent ayers we still might add (vrbata). Yes. Have we done anything Dale Tallon stupid? Not even close.

    Relax. We’re rebuilding. We currently suck. All is well.

  • Dimitri Filipovic

    Think mgmt misjudged the appetite of the fan base on this deal.

    Guys – I want to see the team suck to get better. Deluding yourselves into thinking that you have a sniff at anything beyond a first round exit is a reach. Miller does not change your fortunes that greatly.

    Second, I am tired of this team as it’s configured. If I see one more grumpy Bieska camera shot, or one of the Sedins cycle off the wall, my TV is going off.

    Francesco, are you listening? I can get scalper tickets at 50% face value when I go to a game.

    No one is buying this schlock. Blow er up and sell blue sky for a few years.

    • argoleas

      Sucking to make teams better has worked wonders for the Oilers! How many top three picks have they had since their last cup run?

      The Canucks can be competitive and still have a youth movement. The last 2 yrs the team has had 4 first rnd picks and acquired a coming player in Vey. With Tanev, Corrado, Kassian and Jensen that’s 9 young guys that can learn how to win by making the playoffs and competing.

      How can young guys learn to win if they are not in a competitive situation? The NHL is not the NFL… You can’t tank and automatically get the 1st pick and since the rules have changed, it’s even more difficult to tank.only fai weather fans want to take 2-3 yrs off of winning then spend another 2-3 years having some of those draft picks learn how to win in the playoffs. I like what Benning and Trev are doing. Their jobs are to win as many games every year as possible, not tank and keep your fingers crossed!

      • argoleas

        I think this is accurate. Clearly it seems the goal right now is to create a competitive, bigger 4-line team with excellent goaltending, and let the youth come up with scoring over the next few years, while leaving cap flexibility. I dont see the team singing any other UFA right now. I think that is a better approach than spending 16M on a 38 year old at this time.

        • Barnabas

          I would have liked Cammy or Vanek to sign and get a pure goal scorer next to the Sedins…. But at 5 yrs at 5 mil… For Cammy and 3 yrs for Vanek??? That guy lives Minny for some reason. Should have gone to Winnipeg!

          Everyone last year was complaining that Kassian didn’t get a chance with the twins. Guys got sick hands, can score and pass, but looses it upstairs sometimes. Maybe a “teacher” like Willie will get through to him and realize that hockey isn’t an “ON” “OFF” switch … It’s knowing when to speed up and slow done then hitting the gas.

          If Kass was an Indy racer he would have been in a knock brace by the second race…. Maybe Coach Willie can teach him how to be a Pros Pro!

          • argoleas

            If he has it upstairs, Kass will definitely get his chance, but its mostly about him reaching for it. But seeing how well he can pass, I now wonder if he will actually be the best fit for the Sedins. Ironically, Virtanen looks like the best fit for the Sedins, or maybe Jensen will improve more this year to take that role for good.

            I really liked Kass’ improvement last year. We are starting to see the potential there. If Willie can help him make those next steps, and he certainly looks like the person to do so, I think we will have an awesome player on our hands when the current crop of prospects start moving up in a few years.

  • Barnabas

    I don’t see a problem with signing an above average goaltender for a 3 yr term since we don’t have a settling presence in goal. Look at some of the contracts out there 3 yrs for Iggy 5 for Bolland and the contract Englland signed w Clalgary??!

    Miller will be the starter until Lack is ready to take over, if he is ever ready to take over. Any team that goes into a season that has no seasoned Goalie is looking for trouble. Lack was thrown into the fire and performed admirably but he is still has not started an entire year in the NHL.

    This is a good move to stabilize the goal and considering the fact we have had Garrison making 4.5 as a 3rd pairing Dman and Booth as a 4.5mil 3rd line or scratch player…. Having Miller the starter then in 2-3 yrs he at least splits time with Lack. Depth in goal in an organization is a good thing…..

    Only really good signing was Ehrhoff for a yr by Penns, but Canucks aren’t Penns at this point.

  • argoleas

    This article and all the comments are “missing the plot”… I had to laugh Dimitri when u ask if “it’s fair to wonder whether the guys pulling the strings are properly gauging how their team stacks up in the Western Conference’s hierarchy” cause I often ask myself the same thing about you….

    this is a great signing for a team that will remain competitive and win hockey games next year. The Sabres were BRUTAL in front of him last year and he was the only thing that kept them respectable. If Willie Desjardins does what he says he can do and gets the 18 skaters on the ice playing a hard nose team game next in front of him, then Ryan Miller will give this team a chance to win every night.

    Vancouver is a goalie graveyard its true, but its also a city that truely loves its goalies. I dont foresee it taking long for Miller to steal our hearts. This guy is a pure gamer.

    Kudos JB!

  • argoleas

    The team has oodles of cap space. If you don’t think Miller can help your team win games, then the 2015 draft looks like the kind of season you want to suck going in to it.

    I find it totally unreasonable that the same writers who were extolling Jim Benning’s resume as a propect finder, are so quick — after one draft — to condemn him. The 2014 draft isn’t considered the best draft of all time, and in rounds 6 and 7 we have writers claiming they can’t believe the Canucks didn’t go out and draft tiny skilled forwards because their ceiling is “higher”. Lame sauce. You draft who you think might actually one day help your team.

    These same writers are slamming Benning for going out and shoring up the goaltending spot. This regime doesn’t believe Eddie Lack is the answer. Neither is Ryan Miller, but he’ll help bridge the eras between Luongo and perhaps Demko. That sounds outlandish to the writers here at Canucks Army who don’t seem to know wha they actually want, outside of smallish wingers who could be Marty St. Louis or another Nikita Filitov.

    I’m starting to think the CA writers won’t be happy until they run a team that doesn’t involve a consol controller.

    • argoleas

      Agree 100%

      Lack is not ready to be a 70 game a season #1 and the fact is Miller is only 3 yrs and has a modified NTC that has a 5 team trade clause. If things don’t work out, make a salary dump trade. In the mean time The three young goalies, Demko not with standing, can develop with out the cameras in their faces.

      Miller is competitive and confident, unlike Lu, who chose to retreat to Florida like some 70 yr old retiree!

      As far as Benning goes, the UTurn the writers have taken must have given them whip lash.

      Kesler trade was tone setting: you don’t want to play here, GONE. They could have dragged it on and threatened, but to what end? Get a slightly better proect and have your team crumble?

      Jake V…. Local boy that had shoulder surgery, but after the top 4 draftees, to say any of the PFs were a lock star is ridiculous. Also not drafting Ho Song at 24… Again character over ceiling.

      Benning has been smart methodical and has tried not to over reach like a lot of GMs would have done. Giving Iggy a 3 yr deal to play with Sedins at 36-39? Bolland a 5 yr deal….Flexibilty . Good job so far as I see it.

  • argoleas

    It’s odd to me. On post after post the argument is “this team needs to get younger”. Well, that is not a simple process and I beg any writer to go out there and show me a team with as empty a prospect cupboard as the Canucks, that have been able to become young and competitive in a matter of a month and a half? Show me one team that did exaclty that and spell it out step by step how they did it.

    Ah, but its much easier to be belly ache how your favourite dimuntive forward wasn’t drafted because of course a young speedy power forward with the ability to the put the puck in the net is a terrible idea. I mean, look at all the small guys who just dominated these past playoffs! That’s where the league is heading. Tiny forwards who don’t go in to traffic. Yep. Winners.

  • argoleas

    This move is just one more notch on the belt of seemingly poor moves by Benning and Linden. Has anyone bothered to ask them if they’ve ever heard of “fancy stats”, like Torts? At this point, I’m going to assume “no”.

  • argoleas

    Aging goalie on ugly contract with NTC and declining stats
    Team with 9+M tied in goaltending
    Younger back with equally as good stats

    Didn’t Canucks just put their team and fan base through 2 years of hell trying to get RID of this EXACT situation?

    The parallels are scary. And identical. And I have no interest in going through this again.

  • Barnabas

    Just wanted to note the negativity as well. We signed Miller and there are reporters that are talking about controversies with the goalie coach, with problems between Lack and Miller in a year, etc. I think we need to keep some things to keep in mind:
    St Louis paid a lot for Miller and Ott:
    Buffalo Sabres traded Ryan Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues for Jaroslav Halak, Chris Stewart, William Carrier, a first-round draft pick in 2015 and a conditional third-round draft pick in 2016.
    We paid 5 million and a million each year as a signing bonus plus we have a list of 5 teams he could be traded to.
    Miller gives us stability we will need as players adjust to the new coaching system

    Last I saw, David Backes only had one point in 4 playoff games vs Chicago. He missed a couple of games and was probably playing concussed some of the time. The goalie cannot be 100% at fault. Chicago is also a very potent team and were the Champions.

    This is a new start and one that we need to put behind us as we move to the next building block. I am hopeful we can get Louis Ericksson from Boston as they seek cap relief.

    There is also growing optimism that the cap will rise to 75 million next year.

    • argoleas

      I agree that most of the negativity is BS. I think the argument that the Canucks have not only spent money on getting a very minor (if even that) upgrade at a position where they could have signed someone else for 1 million and spend the saved 5 million to upgrade the roster is the big problem, at least around Canucks Army writers (if I’m not mistaken), and I tend to agree. I believe the current buzzword is “opportunity cost”.

      Hopefully Miller comes in and plays lights out, but I would’ve rather just kept Lack and Markstrom and had a couple of strong roster players.

      Of course, there’s the angle that there just might not have been the roster players available, but who knows.

      I do agree, most of the ink that’s being spilt is over stuff that I honestly don’t think matters all that much.

      • Barnabas

        Thank you Lemming for your thoughtful response. I hear you but play this out a bit more…..

        Who would you have signed today? Pick your best two players and see what they would have cost.

        Now let us start the season with Lack and Markstrom – let us assume Lack has the freshman issues and struggles.
        – let us also assume that Markstrom, who JT hardly played, struggles. Your two players score goals but not enough to offset the woeful goaltending.

        The gravedigging media ((we no longer subscribe to the Province as there is only so much of Gallagher and company you can take before feeling depressed) and we turn off 1040 AM (when certain negative rambling personalities spewing their venom)) will holler that we should have done more to address the goaltending instead of your highly paid 2 players – maybe we should have gotten one and a higher end goalie. If so, then we may still end up at that situation as this off-season progresses.

        San Jose and Minnesota were interested in Ryan Miller but they probably were not willing or able to give term or dollars given other areas they needed to address. If Joe Thornton would have waived his NTC and moved, chances are Ryan Miller would now be a San Jose shark. Who knows.

        What we do know is that we have a highly successful goalie – Vezina trophy winner and Olympic MVP – who has played in Buffalo as the team has gone downhill – coaching and management issues, etc. Sometimes we all need a fresh start, a full training camp, an enabling environment …. I believe the Canucks have offered that. If there are issues with Rollie Melanson, he will be fired and perhaps someone like Kirk McLean will be brought in. Miller is Jim’s guy, Rollie was Mike Gillis’s guy.

        Sure Miller struggled in St Louis but as mentioned, Backes did not do much. The pressure to win there is enormous – and this was not necessarily the best environment to find oneself in.

        What has been done is done. We are now in a new chapter in our history – let us exhale and be supportive. There is too much negativity around – this management team has already done things the previous regime would not have, and channeled their energies to righten the wrongs. They are being strategic and sometimes efforts take time to bear fruit. Goal scorers do not grow on trees, and if a horse does not want to drink water, you cannot force it to (alluding to players who would not want to come here for personal reasons – Vanek (Minnesota connection), Moulson (Buffalo connection), etc. If a player the canucks wanted signed elsewhere, it would not be for a lack of effort on their part (based on what we have seen so far).

        Washington is now close to the cap – perhaps we can get Troy Brower from them in a cap relief trade – he is 28 yrs old and a local boy. Personally I would love to see us get Louis Ericksson – Will had him in Dallas and Jim had him in Boston. Maybe we can get Aaron Volpatti back to replace Tom Sistito or open up the spot for Darren Archibald?

        The cap is expected to go up next year so the 6 million should not seem as onerous and opportunity constraining.

        An interesting note to end this reply:
        Florida now has Bolland (SC Champ, Chicago), Mitchell (2x SC Champ, Los Angeles) and Shawn Thornton (SC Champ, Boston). They can get incredible insights on the chemistry of the past 5 cup winning teams

  • Barnabas

    The media will end Miller in Vancouver…. he is going to get crucified, just like Luongo was. I saw TSN doing it to… ‘Millers skin isn’t thick enough to play in Vancouver’ ‘theres already a rift between Miller and Lack/our goaltending coach?’

    Really? We should replace our goaltending coach imo.

    If you look past Miller’ starts with St. Louis (3 months or 19 games), he had better numbers than Luongo, Schnieder and Lack playing on one of the worst teams. Hes played on one of the worst teams his entire career and put up solid numbers, You can’t do that and not be good, eventually you would get exposed.

    The man hasn’t even laced them up and we’re already being fickle about it.

    • Barnabas

      Soon after the Canucks drafted Demco Thatcher, the highest rated goalie in the draft, there was a piece by Botchford about Demco’s need for surgery. Demco was blogging about his draft experiences which were quite insightful – he grew up liking Dan Cloutier and Felix Potvin, etc., so he was a Canuck connection there that could have been shared with the rest of the readership.

      The comments on this blog were also not very supportive of the decisions being made in the draft. Sometimes I wonder if this is because the blog writers aspire to opportunities or careers in mainstream sports media and negativity sells. If they are to express positivity in their writing, it may alienate them with their networks of contacts?

      I find myself wandering to blogs by others such as Carol Schram for a dose of balanced reporting. I love the Canucksarmy blog for their stats and insights but the negative tones of recent postings makes me upset, especially after the dramatic changes that have taken place and the visible evidence that the new team is doing things with much more cohesion.

      Change takes time and for those advocating the overhaul of the entire scouting dept, a lot depends on the final decision of the GM. Jordan Schroeder and Cody Hodgson were both fairly small centres but it was always obvious that they would never crack the top 6 with Henrik and Kesler around.

      If the Canucks are so lost as some feel, having Travis Green opt to remain as Head Coach in Utica must be hard to comprehend. He did well given the talent and lack of players due to injury call ups and it will be nice to see the teams farm system work under his tutelage with big input from Willie D.

      It is an exciting time to be a Canuck fan.

  • acg5151

    Not really a risk. It isn’t hard to dump bad contracts – let’s face it, we got useful assets for the worst contract in the NHL.

    3 years and Miller’s pedigree means if he sucks we can dump him easily.

    And if he’s good we have a good goalie and might make the playoffs, so who knows.

  • Barnabas

    Welcome to the goalie graveyard Ryan. You’re certainly going to need a sense of humour. True Canucks’ fans will not bitch about their team, they will be patient and only get mad after missing one year of playoffs. They will turn to fair weather sports when the rain stops, and then spend all off season telling management what they SHOULD be doing. They will cry for blood when a player stops performing well, then cry the blues when he’s gone. To top it all, they will give HUGE term and dollar contracts to players over 30, and then wonder why they can’t unload these players when they are past their prime.

    SO are you still happy to be a Canuck Ryan? I will ask you the same question mid way through next season. Happy Days.

    • Barnabas

      Mid way through next season, if Miller performs as you are expecting him to, then you can get rid of him in the off-season of year 2 and try and sign Cory Schneider who should be heading to UFA, or Eddie Lack who will also be heading to UFA.

      On the other hand, if Miller is a success and he and Lack complement each other well and Lack has proved his mettle, you resign Lack and give him more ice time in Year 3 as the roles start to reverse a bit.

      The problem with Cory and Roberto was the length of Roberto’s contract. Sure 3 years may seem long but the light at the end of the tunnel is a lot brighter than having to wait and wait.

      If Eddie plays lights out, he will play more – competition at every position is good.

  • Barnabas


    GA : 2.66
    SVP :.918
    Salary : $6,000,000


    GA :2.41
    SVP :.912
    Salary :$1,000,000


    Lack would have held her together I am sure of it.

    I wish we had have went with either more scoring or D, than Miller. I would have even ratherd Hiller with his vertigo issues.

    • Barnabas

      I recall reading that Hiller wanted to join Brian Burke in Calgary as it was Burke who brought him to the Ducks. If there is truth to that, then the Canucks never really had a chance at Hiller and went all out for Miller.