For anyone unsure about the Vancouver Canucks’ decision to sign goaltender Ryan Miller remember this: his new contract is not like the behemoth contract that held Roberto Luongo in Vancouver. It’s three years (and $18 million), and Benning has a plan and a purpose for 33-year old Miller and the Canucks other goalie, Eddie Lack.
With the departure of Luongo in March last season, Lack was thrust into the spotlight as the Canucks’ starting goaltender. While Lack did not do horribly, he is still a fairly new NHL goalie, and for the Canucks to bounce back next season, management searched for a more experienced goaltender to take back the role of the Canucks’ starting goalie.
This move, instead of continuing to thrust him in to the starting role now, will hopefully benefit Lack’s development, especially since Vancouver’s hockey market puts a lot of responsibility (and often blame) upon the starting goalie.
“When we were in Boston we had Tim Thomas and we had Tuukka Rask come in underneath,” Canucks GM Jim Benning told the Vancouver Sun. “Goaltending is a hard position. Goalies develop later than the rest of the players. I don’t think you really know what you have with a goalie until they are 26, 27 years old. There is a plan in place and I think it’s going to be good for Ryan and Eddie.”
Lack is now 26, and will hopefully be deemed ready to take the position of the Canucks’ starting goalie in two or three years time near the end of Miller’s contract, when Miller will be around 36 years old.
While Miller’s play last season, split between the Buffalo Sabres and the St. Louis Blues, was anything but spectacular, Miller brings with him a list of accolades, including a silver medal from the 2010 Olympics and the 2010 Vezina trophy. 2010 was definitely the best season of Miller’s career in terms of wins and statistics. He had 41 wins in 69 games and a career best .929 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average.
It may also help that Benning is familiar with Miller already, having played a role in drafting him 138th overall in the 1999 NHL Draft and working with the Sabres during part of Miller’s time there.
“He is going to give our team confidence,” Benning told the Vancouver Sun. “He is a guy our team can rely on back there, and I think goaltending is the most important position on the team, so to add someone of his quality is great for the organization.”
The Canucks now look to add some scoring talent to the roster. On July 2nd they signed centres Dustin Jeffrey and Cal O’Reilly as well as defenceman Bobby Sanguinetti. Jeffrey has played 124 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Dallas Stars, with 17 goals and 31 points and O’Reilly has played 113 NHL games with the Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins with 13 goals and 41 points. Sanguinetti has 45 games of NHL experience with two goals and six points.