In Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts, he drops a minor bombshell for Canucks fans as an aside in one of his points: Ryan Miller is expected to sign with the Anaheim Ducks. That’s big news as it was reported as recently as Monday that the Canucks were still trying to re-sign Miller and had yet to turn to Plan B in the goaltending market.
The #Canucks are still trying to sign Ryan Miller. They have not turned to plan B on the market yet.— Rick Dhaliwal (@DhaliwalSports) June 26, 2017
According to Friedman, Miller will sign with the Ducks for around $1 million, but he’s unclear if there will be any further bonuses built into the deal. Technically, those details are not supposed to be negotiated during this time anyways.
Officially, free agency opens on July 1st, so no contracts will be signed or announced until then, but the current interview period allows teams and pending free agents to talk, even if “negotiating” is not supposed to occur.
If this report is accurate, it seems clear that Miller cares significantly more about taking another shot at a Stanley Cup than he does money at this point in his career. At 36, Miller has yet to even appear in the Stanley Cup Finals, coming closest in his rookie season, losing in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Joining the Ducks makes all sorts of sense for Miller. It’s in California, where he can be closer to where his actress wife works. They’re a Cup contender with a strong group of veteran forwards and a talented young defence. They just made it to the Western Conference Final, losing to the Predators in six games. And they really need a strong backup.
It’s that playoff loss that should have caught Miller’s attention. Ducks starter John Gibson got injured midway through Game 5; Jonathan Bernier came in and and gave up two goals on 18 shots to lose the game. Then Bernier proceeded to give up four goals on just 16 shots in Game 6 and the Predators advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals.
But it’s not just Bernier that was concerning: while Gibson had a good .918 save percentage overall in the playoffs, he was seriously shaky at times in the first couple rounds. He was pulled from Game 3 of the Ducks’ 4-game sweep of the Flames after allowing four goals on 16 shots and he had a disastrous Game 6 against the Oilers, giving up three goals on the first six shots he faced.
The Ducks need a reliable backup in case Gibson falters and Miller should provide exactly what they need. He’s an experienced veteran, who showed in Vancouver that he can be a leader for younger players. He’s put up at least a league-average save percentage the last couple seasons, despite regularly facing difficult shots off dangerous passing plays.
This complicates things for Jim Benning and the Canucks, as they need to find a capable goaltender to split starts with Jacob Markstrom, who has yet to truly be tested as a regular starter.
The Canucks also did not tend a qualifying offer to Michael Garteig, so they’re seriously lacking goaltender depth. Their depth chart in net is Markstrom, Thatcher Demko, Richard Bachman, and the newly-drafted Michael DiPietro.
If the Canucks haven't turned to Plan B yet, they better start turning now.