PHILADELPHIA — Jim Benning was instrumental in acquiring Ryan Miller for one NHL team, and he could be preparing to do it again.
Some hockey prospects are ranked. Others are discovered. For Benning it was the latter when the Buffalo Sabres unearthed Miller in 1999.
He was then playing for the North American Hockey League’s Soo Kewadin, which is the CHL equivalent of Junior B. Or, more accurately, somewhere closer to nowhere.
But after scouting Miller and hearing Ron Mason, Michigan State’s longtime head coach, vouch for him, Benning, as the Sabres’ chief scout, pushed for Buffalo to draft a goalie in the fifth round.
The Miller pick proved to be one of his crown jewels. The pair established a relationship that may now help bring Miller to Vancouver.
With Miller’s top choices, Anaheim and San Jose, out, and a soft goalie market, a short-term deal reuniting him with Benning on the Canucks could benefit both sides.
The Canucks are in the market for a veteran who can take the pressure off Eddie Lack, whose body was punished by John Tortorella. The coach had the rookie start 19 straight games in the condensed, post-Olympics schedule and it nearly crushed him.
By the end, physically, Lack’s wheels came off and he had to bow out of the world championship when offered the opportunity he had long coveted to play for Team Sweden.
The Canucks have already reached out to Miller, and of the teams expected to be pursuing him, it’s believed Vancouver is his No. 1 choice.
There’s nothing wrong with dialling Lack back to 30-40 games, but at what cost? Even with a short, two-year deal, it could be expensive. Miller should chew up $4 million-plus on the cap, which is an issue on a team that can’t score and is about to trade its leading goal scorer.
The Canucks need skill up front more than a maxed-out veteran goalie.
But the biggest issue for Miller is whether he’s ready to handle Vancouver. You can’t find someone in the media who shared kind words about their interactions with him in his first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Miller blew off his media responsibilities after Game 5, even when there were only two reporters left.
He told reporters waiting for another scrum to stop staring at him. And he abruptly ended a scrum after the last game when he was asked about his contract talks with the St. Louis Blues.
That was just one six-game series. How is he going to deal with life in a city where he’d be mired in a goalie controversy after his first three-game losing streak?
He does have the right agent, though. Mike Liut represents both Miller and Cory Schneider.
There aren’t many agents who know the Vancouver market better.
© Copyright (c) The Province