ARLINGTON, Va. -- The great goaltending saga in Vancouver was a suffocating storyline at times during the course of the previous two seasons.
There were numerous twists and turns in the journey for Roberto Luongo, Cory Schneider and the Vancouver Canucks, and much of it became available for public consumption. The guy who Luongo faced in the gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, is in the midst of what could also turn out to be a prolonged period of uncertainty about his future.
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Miller has been the face of the franchise in Buffalo in recent seasons. But the Sabres have committed to a rebuild and general manager Darcy Regier has said publicly that he is open to trading both Miller and top forward Thomas Vanek after moving captain Jason Pominville before the trade deadline last season.
The most valuable player at the 2010 Winter Olympics knows it could be a tricky situation in the coming months, but Miller does not want his resolution to play out the way it did in Vancouver.
"It seemed to be one of the more talked-about stories," Miller told NHL.com at the U.S. Men's National Team Orientation Camp. "It was interesting that it played out so publicly though. I thought it was an unfortunate distraction for everybody. I don't think it should ever really play out like that. I thought they both handled themselves well, and I thought it was an unfortunate situation that they were kind of cast into. It was nice to see that Cory and Roberto were able to make light of it and take it in stride, but just with the reactions and how strong they were, it was definitely much more serious than they were letting on. It was definitely something that might have affected them.
"Hopefully any of my seasons wherever I'm at don't turn into something like that. You're there to do a job, but it is a business. If you're going to get traded, hopefully it is just ... you're traded. It is not like a huge buildup or a huge debate or anything. Hopefully it is a little more cut and dried than that."
Miller won the Vezina Trophy in 2010 to go along with his standout performance at the Olympics; at that time, he was a near-consensus choice as the best goaltender in the sport. In the three seasons since, Miller has been consistent (a .915 or .916 save percentage each year) but not elite. The quality of the team in front of him has diminished, and he dealt with a concussion in one of those seasons.
He turned 33 in July and has one year at $6.25 million remaining on his contract. The Sabres could trade him and turn the job over to Miller's apprentice, Jhonas Enroth, but Regier lamented the state of the market for both Miller and Vanek (one year at $7.142 million) earlier in the offseason.
Unlike the way things played out in Vancouver, there have not been reports of Miller requesting a trade or expressing unhappiness or frustration. For a player of Miller's stature to be the subject of trade rumors with so little in the way of drama to this point is certainly different, but that's also the way the goaltender wants it.
"I'm not going to try and handle it maybe the way Roberto did because I think the salary cap changing and a few other situations changing with regard to long-term contracts has already shifted [the market]," Miller said. "I'm not saying he made bad decisions, I'm just saying it has all changed very quickly. He was operating with a contract that was signed with the last CBA. That's hard and difficult to move that kind of contract because essentially that was [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman's big thing was to close those [types of contracts] off. Trying to move something that they tried to get rid of is kind of a tough situation.
"I feel for him. It was a frustrating thing, but he's getting paid to play hockey and ultimately I think the city does respect what he does. I hope he has a good experience there, and the same situation for me -- I've been there a while and I hope the city has a good feeling for me and has hope and belief in what I can do with my abilities."
There are two distinct differences with Miller's contract. Luongo has nine years remaining on his deal, while Miller will be an unrestricted free agent next July. The second might be equally as important: Luongo has a full no-trade clause (though according to capgeek.com there are two future exceptions).
Miller's contract, according to capgeek.com, allows him to provide a list of eight teams to which he does not want to be traded.
"You're there to do a job, but it is a business. If you're going to get traded, hopefully it is just ... you're traded. It is not like a huge buildup or a huge debate or anything. Hopefully it is a little more cut and dried than that."
-- Sabres goalie Ryan Miller
"You want to have a certain amount of control if you can, especially if you negotiated limitations on your movement," Miller said. "You've earned that. It is as valuable as currency when you're doing a contract. Some guys will take less money to have stability. It is definitely something you earn and you have the right to try and use it. I would like to have at least some say in where I go just because Buffalo is all I've known and I have a life outside of that. You'd like to have input, but ultimately in my situation I don't have complete control like maybe Luongo did. It is a business, and I'm an asset. I just hope it is cut and dry if that's the case. If they want me and feel like I'm the player they need, I'm just going to be there to do the job."
Another possibility would be for Miller to sign a contract extension and stay with the Sabres. Enroth is signed for two seasons and at a backup rate of $1.25 million per year.
Among the goaltenders with the 12 highest cap figures for 2013-14, only Miller and Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers are free agents next summer. It is possible the Sabres and Miller could decide they are better off together than apart.
"No, not really. Nothing has come up yet," Miller said when asked about contract talks with Buffalo. "There was a little bit earlier in the [2012-13] season -- more of a feeling out process. Our performance was up to a high-enough level as a team and there was a coaching change and basically a couple of major changes -- an extension doesn't really become of the focus of your general manager when there are so many things up in the air.
"I'm not closed off to the possibility. I understand the situation in the NHL. There's not a lot of goaltending jobs and they're getting filled up by long-term contracts. I'm not going to try and close too many avenues at this point."