Report: Ryan Miller will fly back to Vancouver for MRI; Jacob Markstrom recalled

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller will be dispatched back to Vancouver for tests on the lower-body injury he sustained on Sunday night against the New York Islanders, according to a report from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

Miller will miss at least the next two games, and the club has recalled intriguing third-string goaltender Jacob Markstrom from the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League.

In his first year of duty with the Canucks Miller, 34, has managed average save percentage numbers while holding down a workhorse starter’s workload. There’s value, even very nearly $6 million per season worth of value, in employing a durable starter capable of saving an average number of shots in heavy usage.

While Miller’s overall results have been only average, he’s been one of the league’s best regular starters on difficult shots, according to the shot location data found at Where he’s seemed to struggle this year is with some of his technical adjustments, including post integration techniques. 

As a result of Miller’s injury expect Eddie Lack to get a lions share of the work for Vancouver. 

“Eddie can carry the load going forward if he has to,” Canucks general manager Jim Benning told reporters on Wednesday, by way of the Canucks’ official twitter feed. “Jacob has been outstanding in Utica too. We have great depth at goaltender.”

The situation with Miller’s injury, though far from ideal, will provide the club with an opportunity to evaluate Markstorm, a 23-year-old who has excelled in American Hockey League play this season, at the NHL level. Markstrom has managed a sparkling 17-7-2 record for the Comets, while posting an AHL leading .932 save percentage.

The talented, big-bodied Markstrom has regularly excelled at the AHL level in his young career, but has yet to put it all together and sustain a high level of performance in the NHL. It’ll be interesting to see if some of the work he’s put in with Canucks goalie coaches Rollie Melanson and Dan Cloutier pays dividends now that he’s, reportedly, heading back to the show. 

  • Dirty30

    I guess this falls under the ‘careful what you wish for’ category.

    Hansen is either going to be a Hero or Zero for taking out Miller depending on Markstrom’s play.

    I’m not a big fan of the Miller signing at six mil so this makes for a very interesting look at what might be now and the future in net.

  • allsportsfan

    No offense to Miller but this is the best of all worlds. In fact the injury bug has been an incredible blessing in disguise for the Canucks overall — despite the bizarro decisions to still play McMillan over Jensen or sitting Kassian, we’ve had an excellent opportunity to see what we have in guys like Horvat, Kenins, Clendenning, Vey, even Kassian and Sbisa. And it’s not just in garbage time after we’re out of the race, instead it’s auditions deep in the midst of a playoff hunt. Whether we actually make the playoffs or not is to some extent irrelevant — all these injuries are allowing Benning and Desjardins to evaluate these players while having the cover of competing to get the owners off their backs. And for the first time in a long time the young players seem to be given a longer leash to make mistakes (this is one of the reasons that as much as I like Kassian there must be something wrong with him if three separate coaching staffs — four if you count Buffalo — are giving him this treatment. Willie clearly does give time and space to grow to young players). And really intrigued to have Markstrom up here to see what he can do. The emergency callup means he won’t be exposed to waivers unless it’s post-9 games and Miller is off the IR.

    As others have said on here before, we need to give serious props to Green, the Comets and the farm system in general. Whatever else one can say about the organization this element has clearly and vastly improved over the past five at least. It’s a good reminder that it’s not just drafting that’s key to developing talent.

    • Ruprecht

      I agree with most of your post, but what I really find great about this last little mini-run of injuries is that we’re still very much in the playoff hunt, and that’s important to me because it’s now the younger guys keeping us in the race.

      Honestly, I never saw this coming especially after last year. I’d have figured on the collapse after the top pairing went down. But alas, that was many injuries ago and we’re still very much there.

      So why not be a little excited about checking out what we have for depth in net?

    • Dirty30

      Since Markstrom is considered and emergency call-up he will not have to clear waivers when he is sent back so long as he is sent down before the player he is replacing (Miller) is taken of the IR.

    • Ruprecht

      Elliotte Friedman: “Markstrom was an emergency call-up, so he can stay on the Canucks roster for no more than 30 days without needing to go through waivers to return to the AHL. If he plays in 10 games, he would be required to go through waivers.”

      If the Canucks needed to return Markstrom before Miller is ready to return, I think it would be worthwhile to call up Joacim Eriksson and see how he performs. He’s been down there for a bit and based on Youtube highlights, he’s quite the acrobatic goaltender. He definitely relies a lot on his reflexes.

      • Ruprecht

        I think Joacim Ericsson is waiver-eligible… But definitely a lot less teams will be interested to pick him up as opposed to Markstrom due to Markstrom’s year so far.

      • Ruprecht

        The Canucks have 23 games left in the regular season. I struggle to see a situation where he gets 10 games in that time (although I suppose 30 days is not an unreasonable scenario – and if that occurred then yes I agree they could return him and call up Eriksson).

        Markstrom is 25, not 23, btw, which I realize probably doesn’t matter for the purposes of this article, but probably is significant to keep in mind when evaluating his potential going forward.

        • Ruprecht

          I hear you. With respect to the 30 day limit, on Carol Schram’s Hockeybuzz blog, Dan Murphy is quoting as hearing that Miller is 4-6 weeks minimum. If true, then Benning needs to make a decision.

          I hope that Markstrom can return to the AHL and help Utica in the playoffs. To have a good playoff run would be a boost and help establish a winning culture on the farm. Plus it means more ice time for guys challenging for roster spots next year like Shinkaruk, Jensen and Gaunce.

  • Ruprecht

    I like PB’s post and agree with what he has to say in general about the next generation getting a chance to show their stuff. With respect to goaltending, providing the injury is not serious, this could be a blessing in disguise. Miller gets some downtime, and Lack gets some playtime to show what he’s got without setting off the “goalie controversy” this team was plagued with over the last three years. Heck, give Markstrom Buffalo to see what are goalie depth really is!

  • Ruprecht

    As per the Emergency Call-up rule in the new CBA:

    Players on loan to an affiliated league may be recalled without waivers under emergency conditions, established when injury, illness or suspensions result in the availability of fewer than two goalkeepers, six defensemen and twelve forwards. Players recalled under emergency conditions must be returned as soon as the emergency is over.


  • Ruprecht

    Emergency call up or not, if push comes to shove, Markstrom’s $1+M salary for the last 4-6 weeks of the year wont put Van up against the cap. I bet benning could roll 3 goalies for a couple weeks after Miller is back, so as not to lose him to waivers.

  • allsportsfan

    I think this is Lack’s opportunity to shine and either become a potential better trade prospect to another team or the much more difficult thing to do is change Benning’s mind and keep both him and Markstrom and save the nearly $4million in cap space. Melanson before the season said that Lack and Markstrom could be a tandem pair for the Canucks, then the Canucks signed Miller.

    Rumour is that the nucks are high on Markstrom as being Ben Bishop #2 a late bloomer. I don’t know why the nucks wouldn’t keep Lack over Markstrom as Lack played with a bad back during the stretch last year without a complaint.

    He’s talented and we’ll get to see what he brings in this stretch.

  • allsportsfan

    All in all, as a Canucks fan, I’m sure happy we are having “first world problems” like this considering the goalie fiasco that poor management put two world class, former Canuck, goalies through in the last couple years.