The Ducks sent a message when they signed veteran goalie Ryan Miller to a two-year contract at the opening of NHL free agency on July:
1. They still believe Miller is a top-notch NHL netminder.
2. John Gibson will be challenged for time in the crease.
The 37-year-old Miller comes to Anaheim after playing the last three years in Vancouver, where his numbers certainly didn't compare to those at the peak of his career, but were respectable on a Canucks team that didn't sniff the postseason each of the past two seasons. Miller's goals-against average of 2.70 and 2.80 the past two seasons was above his career average of 2.61, but his save percentage remained a respectable .914 and .916.
He may not be able to carry a team like once did, cresting in 2010 when he won the Vezina Trophy with the Buffalo Sabres and then backstopped the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in Vancouver, winning the MVP of the tournament in the process.
Yet despite being on the brink of his 16th NHL season, Miller says he's not even thinking of the twilight of his career. "I feel like I have a lot of hockey left in me," he told reporters on the day he signed the deal with Anaheim. "I've been able to take care of myself. I can still play at a fairly high level. Any chance you have to play in the NHL is really a blessing, so I wanted to maximize my time and maximize my time chasing down a Stanley Cup with a team."
Miller had a handful of teams looking into his services when his contract expired in Vancouver, but he liked the fit of Anaheim for a number of reasons, including the Ducks' propensity to compete for a Cup each season. His wife is actress Noureen DeWulf, and making a home in Southern California was ideal for the whole family, which includes two-year-old son Bodhi.
"For her to be committed to her craft and do what she needs to do to be successful, she needs to be here a lot. My wife ended up taking the brunt of a toddler while trying to do well in her job. That's really hard. Looking to prolong my career and helping her achieve her dreams is important."
While the Ducks are celebrating two recent Hall-of-Fame inductees in Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne, they may have another one on their roster in Miller. He ranks 19th all-time and third among U.S.-born goaltenders with 358 career NHL victories, and since his NHL debut in 2002-03, he's fifth among NHL goaltenders in wins, second in saves and third in appearances. He is just 17 wins away from being the winningest US-born goaltender in NHL history.
Yet Miller knows his responsibilities may be different in Anaheim, where Gibson has established himself as the No. 1 netminder, but has struggled with occasional inconsistency and injuries. (He missed significant time late in the regular season with a lower body injury and was held out of Game 6 of the Western Conference Final vs. Nashville with an ailing hamstring.)
Gibson, like Miller, has represented Team USA on the national stage on a number of occasions, as Miller competed in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics while Gibson played in two World Juniors, a World Championship and the World Cup last year.
"He's a talented goaltender. He's proven he can take teams to the playoffs," Miller said of Gibson. "My role is going to change, and I'm aware of that heading into it. When you're put in the net, you're trusted with the game. You need to play the best you can to give your guys a chance to win. That's still a priority. That's what I'm focusing on.
"If I can help John along the way, I hope to. I've been playing for a long time, and I'd like to think I have some things that can help him out. We're going to be teammates in this. You can see with the Penguins, you need guys to come in and step up when they're needed. That's going to be more of my role, to be prepared and ready to help at a high level."