For a while it looked as though the injury-riddled Tampa Bay Lightning were going to miss the playoffs. With 23 games remaining in the regular season, Jon Cooper’s team is scratching its way back into the post-season race but that still might not prevent Steve Yzerman from selling off a significant piece of the roster prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
“There’s a good chance that they’re going to move assets between now and the deadline and Ben Bishop is part of that group,” Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports told Jeff Blair on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Thursday.
The 30-year-old netminder has a $5.95-million salary cap hit and is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the season.
Bishop is 16-12-3 with a .911 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average in 31 starts this season. Those numbers are less impressive than what he has posted in the previous three seasons but he remains one of the league’s premier netminders and for the most part he has outplayed his teammate Andrei Vasilevskiy (11-12-5, .910 save percentage, 2.80 GAA).
Vasilevskiy, 22, is Tampa’s goalie of the future and he’s in all probability going to be protected ahead of the expansion draft, which makes it less plausible that the Lightning would attempt to re-sign Bishop.
“Chances are high he’s going to be traded between now and March 1, which could be a surprise for a lot of people, but they want to get something in return,” Lavoie said. “That’s what I’ve been told…I’m still shocked that a trade like that could happen but I’ve been told chances are high that it will.”
While most teams could use a goalie like Bishop, only a handful are realistically in a position to make a move.
“If it’s a sign-and-trade or trade-and-sign kind of deal it’s going to be big for the Lightning and big for Ben Bishop and big for the team getting him,” Lavoie added.
A team like the Calgary Flames needs to figure out its long-term goaltending situation with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson being pending UFAs. The Flames and Lighting were close to completing a deal for Bishop prior to signing Elliott.
The St. Louis Blues, the team that drafted Bishop 85th overall in 2005, are also in the market to add goaltending depth but they’ve got Jake Allen locked up for the next four years at a $4.35-million cap hit. They traded Bishop to the Ottawa Senators in 2012 for a second-round pick and one year later the Sens sent Bishop to the Lightning for Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick.