Photo Credit: Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports
An already short list of destinations for the Vancouver Canucks netminder Ryan Miller shrank by one team today, as the Los Angeles Kings went to the Tampa Bay Lightning and acquired Ben Bishop to shore up their crease for what they hope is an extended playoff run.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 26, 2017
Per TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Kings surrendered Erik Cernak, Peter Budaj, a fifth-round pick in 2017 and a conditional selection in 2017. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting that, as part of the deal, Tampa Bay retained 20% of Bishop’s salary.
That ends any speculation concerning the Kings as a landing spot for Miller. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s dive right in.
Why did the Kings Choose Bishop?
At first glance, I thought this trade something akin to overkill for the Kings. Though Quick doesn’t seem 100% yet in his return from a mid-season groin injury, Los Angeles activated him off Injured Reserve, and he played in their game yesterday, a 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. If Quick is healthy, and one would have to think he will be in time for the post-season, he’s going to be the Kings go-to guy.
— Matthew Sekeres (@mattsekeres) February 26, 2017
If the Kings needed a backup, or an insurance policy even, trading for the widely-considered best available goaltender, and one who’s spent the better part of his career starting at that, seemed a costly move to address a need they might not have. This is especially true when one considers Miller’s probably performed better than Bishop this season, and bests him in 5v5 Sv% by .003 points.
Then again, the Kings acquired Bishop for a song — ironic, given that’s how Bishop joined the Lightning many deadlines ago. If there’s no appreciable difference in price, and I can’t imagine there was much of one given the pennies on the dollar Los Angeles paid, then why not get Bishop?
Miller’s played great this year, but Bishop’s younger and likely the more durable of the two. I also wonder to what extent Miller’s struggles upon joining the St. Louis Blues in a trade deadline deal three years ago has on team’s willingness to go that route again. Once bitten, twice shy, and so on.
What Remains of the Ryan Miller Market?
Frankly, I hadn’t even counted the Kings among the three most likely destinations for a Miller trade when I wrote on the matter less than a week ago. Every indication was that Quick was returning to health, and even Miller seems like overkill at the backup goalie position, especially in light of how well Budaj’s held down the fort. It seems I overestimated the Kings faith in Budaj, though, and therein lied the problem with my evaluation for a Miller market.
As for Kings not needing G, hardly secret they never really got off fence with Budaj + expected he’d get more than they’d pay as UFA July 1
— Kevin Woodley (@KevinisInGoal) February 27, 2017
Whatever the case, I don’t think this the death knell of Miller-movement by the March 1st deadline. There’s still at least one more Californian team that one would have to think has at least some level of interest in Miller.
If there’s one team in South California that is in serious need of what Miller brings, it’s the Anaheim Ducks. Hell, it was the Ducks going into today, too. Their current backup, Jonathan Bernier, is sporting the 58th best 5v5 Sv% right now and their starting netminder John Gibson is nursing an injury.
— Carolyn Wilke (@Classlicity) February 27, 2017
The Ducks goaltending scenario doesn’t exactly exude confidence, and that should be concerning given their competitive window is very much nearing its end and the Patrick Eaves trade made earlier this week indicates they’re aware of that and all in on this year’s team. If any team should make a trade for Miller, they’re the one.
#Canucks have to convince ANA and SJS to add goalies, too. It can be an arms race of back-up netminders
— Jeff Paterson (@patersonjeff) February 26, 2017
I’ve also heard the possibility of the San Jose Sharks as a potential suitor. On the surface, it might make some sense given their general manager Doug Wilson is an unabashed Miller believer with an inexperienced backup netminder. Wilson is also the same GM who traded a fourth for James Reimer as a high-end insurance policy going into last year’s playoff run, so there’s something of a precedent.
Where I’m less certain of the Sharks as a player is the fact that Aaron Dell is playing considerably better this year than their backup netminder of last year, Alex Stalock, did. Dell has the third best Sv% among qualifying goaltenders with a sterling .957 Sv% at even strength.
By that same token, it is fair to wonder just how much confidence the Sharks have in Dell. Their starting netminder, Martin Jones, has played 50 games this season, which is the third highest mark in the NHL. Dell has 12 career starts under his belt. It’s entirely possible that in spite of his small sample of brilliance, the Sharks aren’t overly confident in Dell.
Whatever the case, today’s news doesn’t bode well for the Canucks if they aim to move Miller. It’s far from the end of this, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear Miller connected to other teams in the coming days.