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Photo Credit: © Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Canucks Army Year in Review: Ryan Miller

If Bo Horvat weren’t named Canucks MVP at the end of the season, most would say Ryan Miller was most deserving. After the Roberto Luongo debacle had come to an end three years ago, the Canucks were in the free-agent market for a starting goaltender. Known by many Canucks fans as Team USA’s great goalie at the 2010 Winter Olympics, the team had landed an ageing, although still solid goaltender on July 1st.

For a team that was at the crossroads with regards to their state and direction, Miller was brought in to keep the team competitive as they transitioned young players at the cost of the older veterans. During his three-year contract, Miller helped lead the Canucks to an unexpected playoff appearance in 2014-15. In the following two years, it was all downhill for the most part. Despite the negativity surrounding the team, Ryan Miller was most definitely one of the positive stories.

GP W L OT GAA SV%
54 18 29 6 2.80 0.914

Although his statistics appear to be far from impressive, the numbers fail to show how valuable Miller was to the Canucks this season. Goal support simply wasn’t there for him. The team averaged a measly 2.17 goals per game, which ranked them 2nd-last in the league. You can’t win games without scoring, hence the large difference between his wins and losses. The defence, although still mediocre, was better. Miller managed to keep his goals-against average lower than the team’s 2.94 goals-against per game. His 0.914 SV% was also slightly higher than the league-average 0.913 SV%. He had average numbers on a below-average team.

Ryan Miller’s numbers this season were solid, especially given the fact that he played on a team who finished second-last in the league. He had an excellent year given the Canucks’ circumstances.  For a majority of the season, he was the reason why the team stayed competitive in games. When they struggled to score goals (which was most of the season), Miller kept it relatively tight to give the team a chance. Let’s face it: if Ryan Miller weren’t on the team, the season could’ve been significantly worse than it already was. For many, he was the Canucks’ most valuable player and was deserving of the Cyclone Taylor Trophy.

When an outright loss was foreseeable based on the team’s performance, they somehow managed to walk away with a single point. How? Ryan Miller. The team was middling throughout a good portion of the season because of those points that they didn’t necessarily deserve.

With his 3-year, $18 million contract over, the Canucks have made it known that they’d like to re-sign their starting goaltender. At the tender age of 36 (turning 37 in July), there are questions as to how much Miller could ask for, as well as the term. Based on his play this year, the number could be in roughly the same ballpark as what he initially signed for, give or take a million or so. The Canucks could take a smaller cap hit if they commit to two years, although keeping a goaltender until he’s 39 brings about many unknowns. On the other hand, a one-year deal brings about a more comfortable goalie situation at the expense of a higher salary.

That Jacob Markstrom is under contract for three years at a cap hit of $3.66 million makes things tricky. The case to re-sign Miller is only reinforced by Markstrom’s average performance this season. He was thought to be the heir to the starting goalie position when Miller’s contract was over, but some remain unconvinced that he is ready. Markstrom appeared determined at the season-ending press conference, reiterating his desire to play more games and be the starting goaltender. Having turned 27 in January, Markstrom should be in the prime of his career. Re-signing Ryan Miller for one year, let alone two years, may be difficult for Markstrom to digest.

Although many focus solely on the business side of the NHL, there is also the personal aspect. Miller 36-year-old and on the latter end of his successful (performance and money-wise) career. He hasn’t won a Stanley Cup, and there are far better options other than Vancouver to achieve it. We will likely see a decline in his play next season, though he could still demand a decent salary. He’s made a fairly decent $57.4 million in his career, and his wife is also a successful actress. It’s highly unlikely that money is a significant factor in where he signs.

Based on his interviews towards the end of the season, it seemed obvious that Miller wanted to be closer to his family. His wife and three-year-old son are living in California and have limited opportunities to see Miller during the season. When he speaks of them during interviews, it’s obvious that he wants to be with them more.

Although Vancouver is just a few hours away from where his family resides in Los Angeles, the Kings’ recent trade of Ben Bishop will certainly capture the Millers’ interest. He wouldn’t get the same amount of playing time as he could with the Canucks, but he might not mind if it means he can spend more time with family.

Despite the negativity of the past two seasons, Ryan Miller has provided the Canucks with stable goaltending and a chance to compete in every game. While the team undergoes its rebuild, he’s been the anchor for what could’ve been an incredibly rocky ship. If he cannot find a contract with one of the California teams, expect Miller to be back in a Canucks uniform for his fourth year.

Here are some of his highlights from this season:

  • Miller had an excellent year.

    Year one of his contract was a bit of a struggle. Year two he had injuries to deal with, as I recall. Year three he was excellent. So, to sum up his three years here, I say average, or slightly above. I have no problem re-signing him, but not at a starter salary.
    This has to be the year Markstrom takes the starter job and makes it his own. I say sink or swim with Markstrom. Unless Miller accepts a backup role, we should look elsewhere.

  • neal

    Miller is a fantastic NHL pro, he brings it all every game.

    However, it is time to move on and go with youth. There are goalies playing in the NHL in their early twenties. One more year wasted on any downhill side player in the Canucks organisation is just that. “A wasted year”.

    Miller,Sedins are past 35. Can you run as fast at 35 as you were at 25?

  • TD

    Please don’t sign Miller. He was good, but we need to know what we have in Markstrom and Miller is not a long term solution for the Canucks’ net. Markstrom’s numbers were very similar to Miller’s numbers and he tended to struggle when he played infrequently. The more Markstrom played, the better he played. Give him the net and see what he can do as a starter. Trade for one of Dallas’ goalies or sign an inexpensive option like Bernier as the other goalie.

    • truthseeker

      One of Dallas’ goalies would be expensive though. What’s the point? Unless you think we “take the contract to get a prospect”?

      I don’t think anyone is saying Miller is a long term solution. Where are you getting that idea from? What would be wrong with having him sign a one year deal and lowering his role? Green know Markstrom real well, so I’m sure that’s probably already in his mind.

      Bernier made 4.15 million last season. He lowered his GAA and raised his SV% this season. He’s probably going to get a raise from someone. Miller’s going to be right around 4 to 5 million as well. I’d rather have Miller for one year than have to give Bernier multiple years. Cause he’ll get them.

    • TD

      Sorry that I wasn’t more clear. I would only take a Dallas goalie if it meant getting assets back. I think the Canucks need to move away from older players that will not be with the team in the future. Why sign older players to improve the team in the short term knowing they are not part of the long term solution.

      • truthseeker

        Because we need a goalie. Like….we need a body on the team to play goal. Miller is as good an option as anyone for a short term deal.

        I for one…love the fact that we finally have a guy who’s almost lights out in shootouts after years of Lu (and I’m a Lu fan).

        I just don’t see goal as a huge priority in terms of bringing a middle talent “younger” guy on a longer term deal. Seems like a waste.

        Just make it a patchwork of Markstrom and somebody else on one or two year max deals, until we know what we have with Demko.

  • truthseeker

    Can you imagine if the Ducks had him as their back up? That game 6 might have looked a whole lot different. I don’t see Miller giving up that goal under the glove/above the pad.

    As for resigning him…I don’t care either way. Let him walk? Fine. Give Markstrom his shot. Sign him for a year? Fine…we get another year of a solid if unspectacular goal keeping. It’s a year. The dollars don’t matter at all aside from the profit margins of the owners.

    Whatever they do…it just really doesn’t matter.