Pressed into a corner, the Tampa Bay Lightning made their move.
General manager Steve Yzerman sent goaltender Ben Bishop and a seventh-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, in exchange for backup Peter Budaj, prospect Erik Cernak, and a fifth-round pick.
The Lightning will also receive a second-round pick if certain conditions are met.
“That was the deal that made the most sense, and really to be honest, it was the only option I had,” said Yzerman, speaking to reporters on Monday. “And my options were to make this deal with L.A. or to sit tight and go through the season.”
Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Lightning have been planning on handing their crease over to the younger Andrei Vasilevskiy for some time now.
The 22-year-old signed a three-year, $10.5-million extension last July, and has split the starts with Bishop in Tampa this season.
“At that point I felt like, this is the way we’re going to go,” said Yzerman, of giving Vasilevskiy the reigns once he signed his extension. “We’ve got a veteran goaltender and we’ve got a talented young goaltender, do we keep the veteran (or) do we go with the younger player?
“Ultimately, the cap came into it as well. We believe Andrei is going to be an excellent starter in this league for a long time. And for the time being, his cap number is lower. … We felt that getting the young guy that can do the job at a lower number affords us the ability to go and allocate the funds to other parts of our lineup.”