Westward Ho from Buffalo? The end play for Ryan Miller likely ends on the West Coast, explains
LOS ANGELES, CA -- It's less than a month until they drop the puck for
real and two of the best goaltenders in the NHL have uncertain
Henrik Lundqvist starts the season on
Broadway in the final season of a $41.25 million, six-year deal. It's
been less than smooth sailing for Lundqvist on a new contract, as he
told the New York Times in August talks were "volatile," but also
stated there was little concern to wrap things up over the summer.
The Corey Crawford $36 million, six-year extension likely drives up
King Henrik's price, but the consensus among insiders is the New York
Rangers will pay the ticket to avoid Lundqvist the tricky (and very
costly for the Rangers) waters of unrestricted free agency.
About 400 miles northwest of Manhattan, the mindset of another All
Star goaltender without a Stanley Cup ring is quite different.
Like Lundqvist, Ryan Miller is on the final season of his deal ($31.25
million over five years), but his status with the Sabres is far less
stable than his goaltending compatriot.
For the past year, Miller has been in the midst of trade speculation
and it didn't subside over the summer. Though Buffalo GM Darcy Regier
has committed to keep Miller and leading scorer Thomas Vanek in
Western New York through the final year of their deals, if the Sabres
underachieve they both likely will be gone by the trade deadline.
If both wind up with new destinations before season's end, buyers
beware because both individual have family ties to two markets.
For Vanek, it is Minnesota, as that's the home of his wife, and a
similar family situation likely sees Miller backstopping on the
Pacific shores in a year's time.
From on off-ice perspective, Southern California makes perfect sense
for Miller. He resides in Los Angeles in the off-season and -- more
importantly -- is married to actress Noreen DeWulf, who stars
alongside Charlie Sheen in the F/X series Anger Management.
Miller needs no recruiting effort to play in this market as his low
key demeanor fits the California lifestyle perfectly. While the Kings
are set for the next decade in between the pipes with Jonathan Quick,
the pending transition a mere thirty miles south of Hollywood could
write a storybook ending for the Miller family.
The Anaheim Ducks enter the 2013-14 season with both certainty and
uncertainty. Though they won the Pacific Division in a lockout season
off a strong start, the reality of a first round loss to the Detroit
Red Wings showed that they are a dark horse at best in the
When most thought Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf wouldn't stay, Ducks GM
Bob Murray got approval to keep the boys home with contracts with a
total value of $135 million.
Murray lured former Duck Dustin Penner down the 405 and also convinced
Teemu Selanne that a farewell tour was the right idea. Their blueline
took a hit in the off-season with the recently disclosed injury to
Sheldon Souray, but the opportunity for Miller sits with a goaltending
situation that can only be classified as transitional.
The one constant in net for the Ducks recent history has been Jonas
Hiller. He's fought through a mysterious injury and mediocre defense
to give Anaheim a consistent if not spectacular effort. Murray
ventured into the international free agent marketing to sign Viktor
Fasth, who started strong last season but down the stretch Head Coach
Bruce Boudreau lost faith the Swedish netminder.
Fasth only appeared in two of the final 12 Anaheim contests, but more
importantly not a minute of action in the first round loss to the Red
Wings. Fasth enters camp with one year left on a two year extension
and clearly the backup given the way last season ended.
Like Miller, Hiller is on the final year of deal (cap hit of $ 4.5
million) and well liked inside the organization, but at 31 years of
age and a 10-10 career playoff won-loss record, a long-term extension
is likely not in the cards with a better option in Miller next summer.
The Ducks have a highly-touted prospect in John Gibson, who showed
well in the World Championships in the spring. Only 20 years old,
Gibson has shown flashes of high-end potential and a scenario to be
tutored for a couple of seasons by the perennial All Star Miller, with
Fasth in reserve would make the Ducks the equal of their divisional
rivals in net.
Miller is no youngster; he turned 33 over the summer, so a
three-to-four year contract would likely be his last and help with the
transition to Gibson if he is the future goaltender for Anaheim.