The Tampa Bay Lightning plan to scale back goaltender Ben Bishop’s starts this year to around 50, head coach Jon Cooper told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times. That would allow backup goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy around 30 starts which would represent a new career high.
While an obvious benefit to this is keeping Bishop rested for what they expect will be a lengthy postseason run, it’s also safe to look beyond that and note the contract situations for next season. The team handed the 22 year old Russian a three year extension this past summer, one that will pay him an average of $3.5MM per season. Bishop, meanwhile, is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.
Given Tampa Bay’s looming cap constraints – they have nearly $60MM committed for next season already with players like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin as restricted free agents – it’s likely that they will won’t be able to bring Bishop back so it would make sense that they will give Vasilevskiy a bigger role this season in the hopes of easing him into the top job for next season.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic:
- Canadiens right winger Andrew Shaw will not be suspended for his slew foot on Buffalo’s Johan Larsson, he told reporters including TSN 690’s Dan Robertson. He did note that Senior VP of Player Safety Stephane Quintal has requested a meeting, however. Shaw was suspended for three preseason games back in late September for an illegal hit on Washington prospect Connor Hobbs.
- The Ottawa Senators have yet to engage in meaningful discussions on a potential contract extension for center Zack Smith, writes TSN’s Ian Mendes. Smith noted that there were preliminary talks early in the summer but nothing really since then. The 28 year old is coming off a career year, scoring 25 goals in 81 games last season but led the league with a 20.7% shooting percentage. His previous career high was 14 from the 2011-12 campaign. Smith is in the final year of his contract with a cap hit just under $1.9MM and a salary of $2.35MM. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July.