The Vancouver Canucks want to make the playoffs next season, and they took a huge step toward accomplishing that goal by giving veteran goaltender Ryan Miller a three-year contract on the first day of NHL free agency Tuesday.

The Canucks once had the league’s best goalie tandem with Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider, but after trading both players and receiving very little value in return, the game’s most important position became an area of weakness for Vancouver. That isn’t the case anymore, because Miller — the top goalie available on the free-agent market after a short stint in St. Louis — is one of the most consistent netminders in the league.

Miller has won 30 or more games seven times, claimed the 2010 Vezina Trophy and has posted solid numbers over the last few years despite mostly playing for a Buffalo Sabres team that struggled to defend at a high level in front of him. In fact, Miller played the best hockey of his career for Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

This move also makes it clear that Eddie Lack and Jacob Markstrom aren’t yet ready to be starting goalies at the NHL level. Miller can come in and help Vancouver contend for the playoffs from the league’s most competitive division while allowing Lack to develop into a starter.

It also should be noted that new Canucks general manager Jim Benning played a key part in drafting Ryan Miller when he was part of the Sabres’ front office in 1999.

UPDATE (1:52 p.m.): The Canucks announced they’ve signed Miller but didn’t release financial terms on the three-year deal.