At the Vancouver Canucks’ Summer Summit, GM Jim Benning said he had offers on the table to trade goaltender Ryan Miller.
“We could have moved Ryan Miller,” Benning said at the Summit. “There were teams calling on Ryan Miller.”
Benning’s news to the fans in attendance was met with a chorus of boos.
Miller, 34, signed a three-year deal with the Canucks in 2014 to be their starting netminder. However, Miller lost his job in the post-season as, for the third straight season, the Vancouver Canucks went through what could be considered a goaltending controversy.
It began in 2012-13, with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider both vying for the starting job in Vancouver. Both battled valiantly and, at the draft, the Canucks shocked the hockey world by shipping out Schneider to the New Jersey Devils for the first-round pick that became Bo Horvat.
In 2013-14, all the talk in Vancouver was about who the team’s starting goaltender was under coach John Tortorella. Was it Luongo? Was it Eddie Lack? The answer finally came by the time the Canucks participated in the Heritage Classic outdoor game, in which Lack got the call and Luongo watched from the bench. Shortly thereafter, Luongo was suiting up for the Florida Panthers and Lack took over in goal for Vancouver.
This past season, it was Lack, again, whose play helped stir up some second-guessing from new Canucks coach Willie Desjardins. An injury to Miller late in the year in addition to Lack’s play made Lack, not Miller, the starter for the first-round series against the Calgary Flames.
The Canucks dropped three of the first four games and were ousted in six by the Flames and, on the second day of the draft, Lack was sent packing to the Carolina Hurricanes. It could have been the other way around, though, and some Canucks fans may be wishing it was.
Though Miller has the pedigree – he’s a former Olympic goaltender, Vezina Trophy winner and has been named to the NHL’s first all-star team – he hasn’t maintained that level of play for the past several seasons. Truthfully, Miller’s game hasn’t been the same since his 2009-10 Vezina-winning season.
Prior to 2009-10, Miller had never posted a save percentage above .920, but went off that season with the Buffalo Sabres to the tune of a .929 SP, 2.22 goals-against average and 41-18-8 record. He was a clear cut winner for the Vezina and won the award in a landslide over Ilya Bryzgalov and Martin Brodeur.
Up until the point, last season, when the Canucks inked Miller to a three-year, $18 million contract, though, Miller has seen his game regress. It was even at the point, before being signed by Vancouver, that Miller was brought into St. Louis to help the Blues get over the hump in the post-season and was shellacked by the Chicago Blackhawks, posting a 2.70 GAA and .897 SP as the Blues lost the first-round series in six games.
Regardless of Miller’s play, though, if he was the Canucks’ best option, it would have made sense to hang on to him. The thing is, though, that while Lack hasn’t exactly been a world-beater over his career, his numbers in 2014-15 were superior to Miller’s.
In 2014-15, Lack had an 18-13-1 record, two shutouts, 2.45 GAA and .921 SP. Miller posted more wins, sure, but he had a worse GAA and SP. At 5-on-5, of the 35 goaltenders to play at least 1,500 minutes this past season, Miller ranked 32nd with a .913 SP. Lack was 25th with a .921 mark. While it seems slight, that’s a significant difference, and puts Lack in the same company as Jake Allen and Antti Niemi, while Miller’s two closest comparables were Mike Smith and Cam Ward.
That said, we’re not sure what type of offers Benning did have. Maybe they weren’t perceived as fair value. Maybe the moves would have made the Canucks take back an unfavorable contract in return. But maybe, for the second straight off-season, the Canucks have made an error between the pipes.