Let me start by saying this is just pure rosterbation, so take it with a grain of salt. Then again, with this being the dead time of the off-season, that’s kind of all we have right now…
Anyway… We all know that Detroit’s goalie situation is going to be expensive for the foreseeable future. Jimmy Howard has, per GeneralFanager, 3 years left on a contract worth about $5.3M AAV. Petr Mrazek was just inked to a 2-year deal with a $4M AAV cap hit. With no guarantee of being able to move Howie’s contract (or having him claimed by the new Las Vegas Whatevers), and Mrazek the clear and confirmed goalie of the future, this organization is facing the real possibility of having some expensive years in net ahead of them.
But is there a way out of this? Possibly… Enter Ryan Miller, brother of our silver fox Drew Miller, currently in the last year of his $6M/yr deal with the Vancouver Canucks. Miller for Howard, ideally with retained salary by Vancouver to negate the $700K cap difference and keep us salary cap compliant, could make sense for both sides.
WHAT THE WINGS GET
This year, it would be a total risk/reward situation. The Red Wings would be getting an aging veteran on the decline, but he still arguably has gas in the tank and a higher ceiling in any spot-start than Jimmy Howard. At 36 years old, Miller is a higher risk for injury and decline than Howie but has shown he still has the ability to steal a game - he has 6 shut-outs over the last two seasons, admittedly somewhat a team stat, but those are rarely earned when goalies turn in pedestrian performances. With Mrazek looking to take the lion’s share of starts this year, Miller may be serviceable or even good in a 50/32 split with extra time to rest and recover between starts.
Moving out of this year, the Wings would also get early negotiating rights with Miller if they want to retain his services going into the 2017-2018 season. Jared Coreau is obviously positioned to back-up Mrazek eventually, but there’s no guarantee his performance will warrant such a move next season. If Coreau still needs time and Miller performs well in a limited role, he could be an excellent back-up on a smaller AAV contract that would let him close out his career with his "home" team and playing with his brother. The PR angle for having the Miller Brothers together at last practically writes itself, and Ken Holland could use more good PR this summer.
If Miller doesn’t perform well, then the Wings have gained salary cap space heading into next season and 2 years of flexibility they didn’t have with Howard on the books. They also gain the knowledge that they only need to protect Mrazek at the expansion draft, as Miller is currently ineligible to be claimed since he has no contract for the 2017-2018 season. Not that Mrazek isn’t the clear choice, but with the Detroit front office making some questionable signings this off-season I’d rather remove all doubt than give Ken Holland a choice at the moment.
WHAT THE CANUCKS GET
I don’t want to go so far as to say the Vancouver goalie situation is a dumpster fire right now, but there might be some smoke rising from a bin of hot garbage. Ryan Miller has not been the panacea they hoped for when they brought him in from St. Louis, but a sub-par defense and the wear-and-tear of being THE guy in his mid-30s haven’t helped his cause. Back-up Jacob Markstrom has likewise failed to impress in his limited starts. While Markstrom posted some of the best numbers of his career this past season, a 2.73 GAA with a 0.915 SV% and 27.4 saves per game in 33 starts wasn’t exactly going to earn him All-Star honors. Vancouver needs a solid, proven goaltender to go 1A/1B with Markstrom over the next few years while they get 20-year-old prospect Thatcher Demko developed enough to take the reins.
Jimmy Howard has shown the ability to perform in a 1A/1B situation. While he seems to do better with the heavier end of the goaltending load instead of splitting time and worrying about his starting job, he’s still usable as an "every other game, plus…" guy. His highs have never been as high as Ryan Miller’s, but at the moment he looks to be a more consistent option for a team to lean heavily on if or when needed (and with Markstrom, the Canucks will need to lean on someone else). The 3 years remaining on his contract give Vancouver stability with a solid net presence while they season their prospects, and he’s less of an injury risk in heavy use at his age than Ryan Miller at 36 years old despite Howard's Great Groin Debacle of the 2015-2016 season.
Both Miller and Howard possess some form of No Trade Clause. There’s nothing saying either of them would block this trade were it to happen, but there’s also nothing specific out in Vancouver for Jimmy and Ryan has supposedly been working his way west trying to play closer to his wife (actress Noureen DeWulf, who lives in California) and their child. Perhaps the writing-on-the-wall for Jimmy and the opportunity to be around extended family for Ryan could have enough pull for them to be OK with a swap?
WILL IT HAPPEN?
In all probability, this is a pipe dream. But if Ken Holland seriously thinks this team can make a run as long as they get to the post-season, wouldn’t it make sense to grab someone who has the potential to steal 1 or 2 games for you between Mrazek starts while setting up for Coreau’s ascendance? What do you think, am I off my rocker or should I charge Kenny a consulting fee for handing this to him on a silver platter?