After what feels like ages of rumors and reports linking Ryan Miller to the Anaheim Ducks, the veteran goaltender is finally making his way down to Orange County on a two-year, $4 million dollar deal.
With the contract officially consummated on Saturday, the Ducks have now addressed the void left behind by the departure of former backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
A Jonathan Bernier Post-Mortem
The 28-year old Bernier decided to test open market after a resurgent regular season, eventually signing a one-year, $2.65 million dollar deal with the Colorado Avalanche just hours after Miller signed his own dotted line.
Jonathan Bernier agrees to a one-year deal with Colorado for $2.75 million— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) July 1, 2017
Bernier’s season was highlighted by a torrid stretch that saw him post a .941 save percentage in the month of March after John Gibson had gone down with yet another lower body injury.
That hot streak pushed the Anaheim backup’s save percentage to a respectable .915 mark to end the season, perhaps erasing much of his early-season struggles in the minds of front-office types.
The post-season was a much different story for Bernier. Though it should be noted that he often jumped into games in difficult relief situations, he still ended up with a horrendous .873 figure in four appearances.
Given what could only be described as a “just O.K.” body of work in 2016-17, it’s a bit shocking that the Colorado front office went ahead and offered Bernier $2.65 million — albeit for one year — with markedly better options available. But hey, this is also the same team that protected Semyon Varlamov over Calvin Pickard.
Now Let’s Talk Miller
Gibson has struggled to remain healthy in his brief National Hockey League career. InGoal Magazine — a tremendous source of goalie insight — noted that there appear to be some technical and bio-mechanical inefficiencies to his game that may be ruining his lower-body.
That’s not hard to believe. Gibson’s technique has never been a strong point, instead getting by with bizarre mechanics and his vaunted athleticism.
It’s downright impressive that he’s made it this far in professional hockey without even a semblance of a fundamental game, so he certainly deserves some credit there. At the end of the day, however, he’ll have to change something if he wants to play into his late 30’s, which at this rate isn’t looking very likely.
Perhaps this is where Miller will prove to be most useful for Anaheim. Outside of simply being a quality goaltender in the latter stages of his career, the 36-year old is also a case study in how goaltenders can prolong their careers.
Certainly, part of remaining healthy is genetics — some guys are naturally more prone to injury than others — but a huge factor is also finding ways to alleviate stress in the critical knee and groin areas, a goaltender’s money-makers.
Kevin Woodley of InGoal notes that part of Miller’s ability to still be a league-average goaltender at the age of 36 (soon to be 37) has been his commitment to hyper-specific off-season training, including yoga. Pair that with an economical style of goaltending that he developed upon arriving to Vancouver, and you have a nice recipe for longevity.
If he can impart any of those values into the 23-year old Gibson, then this could become one of the best investments that the franchise has ever made.
Should Gibson go down with injury again — which feels almost inevitable at this point — the Ducks can feel confident in knowing that they’ll have a guy who posted respectable .914 behind a moribund Vancouver squad. With Anaheim’s talent on the blueline, Miller could very well be in for a jump in save percentage.
From a front office perspective, the terms of the contract were very nicely orchestrated by Ducks’ general manager Bob Murray.
Anaheim will be devoting over 50 percent less to its backup goalie position than it did in 2016-17, while most likely upgrading from a talent and big-picture standpoint. That’s a very good day at the office for Murray.