If the Tampa Bay Lightning decide to trade Ben Bishop, here are three potential fits for the star goaltender.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are having a terrible season so far. Entering the 2016-17 season as the Stanley Cup favorites of some, they currently sit in sixth place in the Atlantic Division. It has been a frustrating season for them, especially for goaltender Ben Bishop.
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A year after being named a Vezina Trophy finalist, he has played in only 27 of his team’s first 51 games. Bishop’s save percentage has dropped from .926 in 2015-16 to .904 in 2016-17. However, he has battled injuries, so this explains his slump. With his resume, a playoff team should be willing to gamble on him. Bishop will be a free agent after this season.
The rental market for goaltenders is often unpredictable and wild. Contending teams typically don’t need to add goaltending, but this year, there are three teams who need an upgrade. Here are the three teams who should be giving the Lightning a call about Bishop.
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3. Carolina Hurricanes
Depending on where the Carolina Hurricanes sit towards the end of February, they might make a move for a goaltender. Cam Ward is their primary starter. The Hurricanes have the fifth worst team save percentage in the NHL as of Feb. 2. Despite this, Carolina sits five points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand over the Philadelphia Flyers in the second wild card spot.
The Hurricanes are battling for a spot in the postseason in spite of bad goaltending. Moreover, the market for Ben Bishop isn’t going to be large. Most playoff teams have their goaltending figured out (though an injury obviously would change things). Carolina needs to do something to help energize their fan base. When they’re good, the fans show up. But the issue is they haven’t been good since the 2008-09 season.
The Dallas Stars 2015-16 season was defined by their high-octane offense and sub-par goaltending. So far in 2016-17 season, the former has not been there but they still have poor goaltending. Kari Lehtonen has been better than his numbers suggest, but the Stars still have the fourth worst team save percentage in the NHL.
Dallas expressed minor interest in Bishop during the offseason, but the Lightning weren’t interested in moving him. With Tampa Bay falling out of the playoff picture, could the Stars make a move for Bishop?
The fit for him in Dallas will largely depend on how the team does over the next few weeks. Currently, the Stars are still close to a playoff spot. Dallas is three points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card spot with two games in hand. Two wins mean they’re ahead of the Flames.
Bishop hasn’t been himself this season, but his resume is worth gambling on. He’s a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist and the Stars need better goaltending to have a shot at the playoffs. With the Western Conference fairly wide open, getting into the postseason is important because it gives you a shot at a Stanley Cup. Bishop could be the guy who helps the Stars win their first Stanley Cup since 1998-99.
The tides have turned ugly for the St. Louis Blues. Last season, they had the best team save percentage in the NHL. This season, the Blues have the worst. Part of this is because they traded Brian Elliott to the Calgary Flames. Sure, his numbers don’t look outstanding, but goalies take a bit to get used to new systems. All Elliott did in St. Louis was lead the league in save percentage twice.
Jake Allen was expected to be the long-term starter in goal. To be fair, entering this season, his numbers were impressive and steadily improving. But the Blues clearly made a mistake by not at least getting a better backup than Carter Hutton. A Bishop trade could help salvage their season.
St. Louis is the most willing of the three fits to pay a lot to get him. They probably should have traded for him before firing Ken Hitchcock. Time is running out for the Blues to contend with their current core. If they can solve their goaltending, a Stanley Cup run shouldn’t be ruled out. Bishop is by far the easiest way for them to solve it, even if he costs them a first round pick.