Barring the unexpected, Ben Bishop will enter the 2016-17 season as the starting goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning. After leading the NHL in GAA (2.06) and finishing second in Vezina Trophy voting, Bishop has established himself as one of the league’s top net minders and is a key reason the Lightning will be among a small handful of teams expected to challenge Pittsburgh for Eastern Conference supremacy. But as he enters the final year of a contract, which comes with an AAV of $5.9MM, Bishop’s time in Tampa may be nearing its end, as Mike Halford of Pro Hockey Talk explains.
At 29 and with presumably several years of elite-level play ahead of him, Bishop will be in a position to command a significant multiyear deal next summer. The Lightning already have $55MM tied up in their 2017-18 salary cap – according to Cap Friendly – and will need to re-sign pending restricted free agents Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin, none of whom will come cheaply. Additionally, that figure does not yet account for the eventual cap charge of Nikita Kucherov, who is still a RFA and is in line for a nice payday. Chances are Tampa simply won’t be in a position to offer Bishop what he can command elsewhere.
On top of that, as Halford noted, the Lightning were proactive and inked backup goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year extension which goes into effect in time for the 2017-18 campaign after Bishop’s contract ends. Vasilevskiy is one of the top young goalie prospects in the NHL and should be ready to assume a larger role. This gives the Lightning a fair amount of protection should they reconcile themselves to the likelihood of Bishop’s departure.
Halford wonders if Tampa would consider dealing Bishop prior to the trade deadline but points out that as long as GM Steve Yzerman feels the team’s chances of contending are better with Bishop than without, he is more likely to hang onto the goalie. He goes on to mention Calgary and Dallas as potential suitors, should the Lightning conclude moving Bishop is the best course of action. Both of those teams were linked to Bishop this summer.
Elsewhere in the NHL:
- Assuming he plays out the season without signing an extension, Brent Burns will be one of the most sought after free agents on the market next summer as an elite, puck-moving blue liner who can produce points. Joey Alfieri, who writes for Pro Hockey Talk, considered what Burns’ next contract might look like, suggesting Dustin Byfuglien’s recent extension with Winnipeg as a fair comparable. Like Byfuglien, Burns is 31-years-old and both men are among the most dynamic offensive defensemen in the game today. Byfuglien inked a five-year pact worth $38MM with Winnipeg during the 2015-16 campaign. The Byfuglien comparable seems reasonable but it’s likely Burns can get more, particularly if he reaches the open market. The San Jose Sharks defender has tallied 44 goals and 135 points over the last two seasons. Byfuglien, on the other hand, has recorded 37 goals and 98 points. San Jose tends to tread carefully when it comes to the contract length for aging players – think the matching three-year deals for Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton – and they promote a willingness among many of their players to take fewer dollars from the Sharks than they could secure otherwise in free agency. Re-signing Burns will surely be a top priority for the Sharks and it will be interesting to see if the two sides can get something done.
- Quinton Howden, who signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Winnipeg Jets on July 1st, is thrilled to have the chance to play for his hometown team, as Jason Bell of the Winnipeg Free Press writes. Howden was a first-round pick of the Panthers in 2010 and played the previous three seasons with the Florida, tallying 10 goals and 17 points in 92 games. Howden, who grew up in Oakbank and played his junior hockey with the Moose Jaw Warriors, is expected to compete with several others for one of three or four forward spots up front for the Jets.