Ryan Miller signs $18M deal to play goal for Canucks
Puckstopper split last season with Blues, Sabres
Rookie general manager Jim Benning continues to put his stamp on the Vancouver Canucks.
The former Boston Bruins assistant GM filled a glaring weakness in net Tuesday, signing unrestricted free-agent goaltender Ryan Miller to a three-year contract worth $18 million US.
The Canucks need a proven goaltender after trading Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo in the past 13 months.
"I felt it was important to get a goalie with experience," said Benning. "Over the years he's played a lot of games. He gives us that experience that we need."
Our younger players are going to see the way he works in practice, how hard he practises. It's going to make them better players.- Canucks GM Jim Benning on newly signed goalie Ryan Miller
Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom will battle for the backup job at training camp in September.
"I kind of knew something was going to happen," Lack told the Vancouver Sun. It's the business part of it and I feel like it's a great move by the organization. I am just trying to look at it as positively as I can. That is the way I have approached everything in my career."
Lack, 26, had a 16-17-5 record last season but looked to run out of gas down the stretch after Luongo was dealt to Florida. Lack's .912 save percentage was ranked 30th in the league and his 2.41 GAA was 20th.
Benning is familiar with the 33-year-old Miller, having worked in Buffalo's scouting department when the Sabres drafted the player in 1999.
"He's intense and focused," said Benning. "Our younger players are going to see the way he works in practice, how hard be practises. It's going to make them better players."
It's believed he preferred to play on the West Coast to be closer to his actress wife Noureen deWulf, who stars in the television program "Anger Management" and lives in Los Angeles.
He joins his third National Hockey League team after splitting the 2013-14 season between Buffalo and St. Louis.
A former Veznia Trophy winner who has played in 559 NHL games, Miller believes he can help return the shine to a team that has begun to show tarnish.
"I like to think that this team can get its mojo back, have a good attitude and push forward," Miller said from East Lansing, Mich. "From the top down I think they have the right attitude in place. I think it's going to be exciting to play hockey here."
Miller spent parts of 12 seasons playing for the Sabres before being traded to St. Louis in February. The Blues were looking for a goaltender who would take them deep into the playoffs but they were eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round after Miller allowed 19 goals and posted a lacklustre .897 save percentage.
"Just leaving Buffalo was a little bit of a shock to the system," said Miller, who was the goalie on the U.S. team that lost to Canada in the gold medal game of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. "We didn't accomplish what we set out to do in St. Louis. That always is going to sting. As an athlete and a person you have to move forward. One moment doesn't define you. You keep believing in yourself."
Miller's time with the Blues essentially was over when the team re-signed netminder Brian Elliott to a three-year contract worth $7.5 million US.
With St. Louis, Miller had a 10-8-1 record, 2.47 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 19 regular-season games. Overall, He was 25-30-4 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .918 save percentage this past season.
Miller has 294 wins, a 2.59 GAA with a .915 save percentage in 559 career NHL games.
Despite his experience, Miller said he always sees himself as a work in progress.
"I think I'm still developing into the best player I can be," he said. "I take that part of hockey seriously, finding new things to add my game and taking consideration and coaching from other people."
Scoring a problem
Miller gives the Canucks experience in net but scoring remains the team's bigger problem. Vancouver managed just 196 goals last year, leaving them tied for second least in the league.
Benning said the Canucks "were in on" talks with Jarome Iginla, who eventually signed with Colorado.
"We are still in on some things to add scoring," he said. "If it doesn't happen today maybe it's the secondary market in the next few days or the next week.
I've had the chance to experience Vancouver over the years and have always been blown away by the amount of support the fans bring out and how great the crowds have been.- New Canucks goalie Ryan Miller
"We are going to do everything we can to make this team be a successful team and win."
Reaction to the Miller deal was mixed on Vancouver talk radio and Twitter. Some fans believed goaltender Jonas Hiller, who signed a two-year, $9-million deal with the Calgary Flames, was a better, cheaper option.
Miller said he has a fondness for Vancouver, especially after playing for the U.S. during the 2010 Winter Games. Sidney Crosby scored on Miller in overtime to lead Canada to victory in the Olympic gold-medal game at Rogers Arena.
"I've had a chance to experience Vancouver over the years and have always been blown away by the amount of support the fans bring out and how great the crowds have been, also how kind the people have treated me over the years, especially during the Olympics," he said.
"It's a great city for hockey, a great city to live in," he added.
Benning has been busy over the past few days after trading forward Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks just prior to the NHL draft.
It's all part of a retooling effort for the Canucks, who have a new president in Trevor Linden, a new GM in Benning and a new coach in Willie Desjardins.
With files from The Canadian Press