The slumbering NHL trade market finally woke up with an unexpected bang.
And, perhaps, some confusion.
Of all the places you might have anticipated former Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop ending up, the Los Angeles Kings crease probably wasn’t one of them. Particularly a day after Jonathan Quick registered a victory in his return from a 59-game injury absence.
But there the Kings were, adding Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night in a complex deal that involved retained salary and a draft pick with several conditions – not to mention the more traditional mix of players and picks you typically see switching hands at this time of year.
“It certainly got creative,” Lombardi said on a conference call. “[Lightning GM] Steve [Yzerman] and I have been at this for like two, three weeks. It actually got to the point where he had to turn it over to the lawyers because we were both getting confused.”
Welcome to the intricate world of wheeling and dealing in 2017.
The market-shaking Martin Hanzal-to-Minnesota move that followed stuck to the same script – with the Coyotes including Ryan White and keeping back half of Hanzal’s salary while getting a 2017 first-rounder, 2018 second-rounder and conditional 2019 pick that will become a second-rounder if Minnesota wins two playoff rounds this spring while using Hanzal in at least half of the games.
“I think conditions are put in place to share risk,” said Coyotes GM John Chayka. “We believe strongly with Martin that Minnesota has a chance to do some things that could be pretty special and we want to share in some of that upside.”
Everything from salary cap compliance to the pending expansion draft promises to have a major impact on the moves we see consummated before the 3 p.m. ET trade deadline on Wednesday.
For the Kings, the move was entirely about making a push for the playoffs. Lombardi indicated that Bishop could start as soon as Monday’s game in Minnesota – adding that he wanted to make sure Quick had adequate rest in his return from a groin injury while giving Los Angeles a chance to reel in one of the wild-card spots currently held by Calgary and St. Louis.
“This is not an insurance policy,” said Lombardi. “It is a way that we think to make sure that Jon is broken in properly … and make sure we’re in position here to win every game. Because every game down the stretch here is critical; it’s basic, there’s not a lot of room here for error.
“We just wanted to take that out of the equation by making sure that we have a No. 1 goalie in there every night.”
The Lightning cleared the way for new No. 1, Andrei Vasilevskiy, while also getting back some assets for a pending unrestricted free agent they’d almost certainly not be able to retain. On top of that, Yzerman managed free up cap room to limit the overage he’ll carry into 2017-18 because of entry-level bonuses that will be paid to Vasilevskiy, Jonathan Drouin and Brayden Point.
In exchange for Bishop and a fifth-round pick, Tampa received goaltender Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak and a seventh-round pick. The Lightning also retained 20 per cent of Bishop’s remaining $5.95-million salary/cap hit, while getting a conditional pick that could become as high as a second-rounder.
Working through the conditions on that was fundamental to the deal, according to Lombardi.
“It’s all based upon games played and team success,” he said. “Unless we make the playoffs, there’s nothing. So once we make the playoffs and games are played, then there’s a ladder that can continue to go up based upon [Bishop’s] games played and team success and it tops out at a second-rounder. It can’t go into a first.
“There’s multiple ways for it to rise, but it’s all based upon the team doing well and him playing.”
Hanzal was the most intriguing centre thought to be available before the deadline. The six-foot-six Czech is a rental who drew tremendous interest, with Chayka saying he worked “tirelessly” since Christmas to ensure he got the best deal possible.
“I think Minnesota clearly stepped up,” he said.
The Wild are all-in, as are the Kings.
Internal metrics suggest that this Los Angeles team is only 10 per cent worse at giving up high-danger scoring chances than the 2012 Cup-winning group. That caught the eye of Lombardi given Quick’s long absence and the young additions on his blue-line.
He’s been working the phones, but only now with the trade deadline looming did everything fall into place just so.
“I’ve been looking at something for a while,” said Lombardi. “But it’d have to be what I considered a No. 1 [goalie] for it to make sense, and that’s just kind of the way it is. The other problem you’ve got obviously – don’t forget that a lot of teams until you start getting to this point are still in the playoff hunt. You have very few teams now that are out of it by even March now, right?
“It takes a while for teams to decide whether they’re buyers or sellers. That’s just the nature of [salary] caps and parity.”
More decisions await as the clock continues to tick towards Wednesday afternoon.