Ben Bishop: Vegas ‘thinking younger’ for goalie search

Newest Stars goalie Ben Bishop joins HC @ Noon to discuss why Dallas was the best fit for him, and why he was a little surprised when he got the call in L.A.

When discussing the path that led him to join the Dallas Stars, Ben Bishop dropped an interesting little nugget on the Vegas Golden Knights, with whom he did not come close to signing.

“There was some talk of it,” Bishop told Hockey Central at Noon Monday. “From what I heard, they were thinking younger and a different direction. They’re going to be a competitive team.

“I definitely would’ve thought of the option if it was there.”

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Hockey Central @ Noon
Ben Bishop: Stars a good fit for both sides
Originally aired May 15 2017

The newest member of the Dallas Stars‘ $15.3-million crease, Bishop should hardly be considered an old goaltender at age 30.

He’s younger than Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, 32, who has long been rumoured as a prime candidate to start the Golden Knights’ first NHL game. (It’s much too early to count Fleury out of the running yet; the man’s busy trying to win another Stanley Cup ring.)

Also older than Bishop are unrestricted free agents Brian Elliott, 32, and Ryan Miller, 36. Both No. 1 goaltenders could change sweaters in the summer’s game of musical creases.

So, if the Golden Knights are indeed thinking younger (and, let’s be honest, cheaper), which twenty-something goalie(s) could they be targeting?

There are free-agent options under 30, should Vegas GM George McPhee go that route.

Mike Condon, 27, played stellar in long-term relief for Ottawa this season but won’t unseat Craig Anderson for the No. 1 spot there.

Jonathan Bernier, 28, bounced back from a brutal final season in Toronto to post a phenomenal record in Anaheim (21-7-2, .915 save percentage). He remains behind John Gibson on the Ducks’ depth chart.

Steve Mason, 28, appears to be moving on from Philadelphia, but he had a winning record (26-21-3) for a poor defensive team and would likely be willing to take a slight pay cut from his $4.1 million rate to have a chance to seize a No. 1 spot somewhere.

The more interesting, if less proven, candidates for Knighthood will be found in the expansion draft.

Washington’s 25-year-old Philipp Grubauer shone under his increased backup role, posting a .926 save percentage in 24 appearances. McPhee will face a difficult decision: Take Grubauer or speedy defenceman Nate Schmidt off the Capitals?

We wonder if Caps GM Brian MacLellan pushes McPhee toward Grubauer, who wants a shot at a No. 1 role — something he’ll never have playing behind Braden Holtby.

New York Rangers backup Antti Raanta, 28, is in a similar situation. He has great numbers as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup (Raanta posted a .922 save percentage over 30 games), but he will never overthrow the King.

Does McPhee grab Raanta or cheap 27-goal winger Micheal Grabner instead?

Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Joonas Korpisalo, 23, and Edmonton’s seldom-used Laurent Brossoit, 24, offer plenty of promise but little certainty. They are a couple of young goalies who could grow with the Knights over time.

Alternatively, McPhee could look to get creative here and use his cap and roster space to provide a landing spot for another GM’s problem, orchestrating a trade in which he takes an expensive goalie off someone’s hands for the price of a pick or prospect.

Potential trade steals include the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, Detroit’s Petr Mrazek or Jimmy Howard, Dallas’s Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen, and Carolina’s Cam Ward. Of that group, only Mrazek is in his 20s, however.

The options are plentiful, but Vegas’s disinterest in Bishop suggests that McPhee may already have a tentative plan in place.

With so many moving parts, it should be fun to see how this all plays out.