The current pause in the NHL season has had a major effect on each and every player in the league and could have a lasting impact on careers beyond this year. However, veteran players may be influenced the most, as the past two months have provided insight as to what a life after hockey might look like. The New Jersey Devils’ Cory Schneider and the Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Miller, two aging goalies whose futures were in question even before the pandemic, recently spoke on how they are feeling about their current circumstances and the outlook on the rest of their careers.
Schneider, 34, remains optimistic that his playing days are far from over. Schneider told NHL.com’s Mike Morreale that he is using this time to get back into “peak physical condition” and that he has not “entertained thoughts of retirement at all.” Schneider suffered a major core injury in 2015-16 and has not been the same player since. Once one of the league’s top goalies, his numbers have dropped precipitously year-to-year as he has struggled to stay healthy and to rediscover his elite form. Now passed up as the Devils’ started by young MacKenzie Blackwood, Schneider has two years left on his contract at $6MM AAV and would be a prime buyout candidate, standard or compliance, for New Jersey. However, Schneider’s hope is to remain with the team. “”I’m not naive to the business side of things,” Schneider explained, “but I feel that when I’m playing well, I can do a lot for our team on the ice and off the ice. That’s the role that I want to fill.” Schneider best chance to continue playing in a meaningful NHL role may also come with New Jersey. If he were bought out, Schneider would find himself in a free agent market this off-season that is chock-full of veteran keepers looking for one last contract and teams without much money to spend on aging backups.
Miller, 39, is part of that group. While Miller’s numbers in 2019-20 are the worst of his career, they are still palatable, especially in a backup role. Miller has in fact maintained a solid and at times stellar level of performance throughout his late 30’s. While no one would blame the former star netminder for calling it quits at his age with his resume, Miller has maintained that he would like to continue playing. Previously, the obstacles to that plan were Miller’s insistence on remaining in the California area near his family, as well as the aforementioned market, which also includes names like Mike Smith, Jimmy Howard, Craig Anderson, Corey Crawford, and Brian Elliott as older names who are past their prime and just looking for one last go-round. However, Miller recently spoke to Sportsnet’s Gene Principe and admitted that the COVID-19 pause has placed another roadblock in the way of extending his career: not wanting to leave newfound day-to-day role with his family amid the return to a “new normal” post-pandemic. “There’s a lot of talk here in California that schools are not going to be fully in session possibly into next year. That changes the dynamic around the house and what needs to happen and what’s important,” Miller stated, adding “what that means for sports and life – and wrapped up in that is family and how family is going to need to be taken care of during this time.” It remains to be seen whether remaining with the Ducks would be an option for Miller and if that would even allow him to be comfortable in his role with his family. If not, no one would blame Miller for hanging up his skates and his departure would allow for one other veteran keeper, perhaps even Schneider, to continue pursuing his career dreams.