It has been an interesting few months for Tampa Bay goaltender Ben Bishop. After nearly being dealt to Calgary in the offseason, he has found himself seeing less ice time as a result of the team wanting to play youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy more often. Now, he finds himself off to his worst start since becoming a full-time NHL player, hardly the ideal situation for a pending unrestricted free agent.
While his free agency situation and uncertainty of where he’ll be next year (since it’s unlikely to be in Tampa Bay) are admittedly on his mind, he told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times that it hasn’t been a distraction:
“You know (the contract uncertainty) is there. But it’s not like I’m sitting at home thinking about it. You just think about the next game, want to play well to get out of this funk. That’s way more on my mind than anything else.”
In 20 games this season, the 30 year old has posted a 9-10-1 record with a 2.87 GAA and a .905 SV%. For comparison, he allowed just 2.06 goals per game last year, the best mark in the league while finishing second in the Vezina Trophy balloting.
Given the current market when it comes to trading starter-quality goalies, it doesn’t seem likely that Bishop will be dealt by the trade deadline and GM Steve Yzerman recently reiterated that Tampa’s current tandem could remain intact for the rest of the season. That type of uncertainty is far from ideal heading into a free agent season but if Bishop can turn his year around, not only would he help cement himself as the top UFA goaltending option in July but also help push the Lightning back towards a playoff position.
More goalie news and notes:
- Chad Johnson’s road to signing with Calgary Flames started in a rather unique way, writes USA Today’s Kevin Allen. It just so happened that the first day that teams could talk with pending UFAs was Johnson’s wedding day so while Johnson was tying the knot, his agent, Steven Kotlowitz, was trying to tie up a new home for his client (while also making an appearance at the wedding). The Flames were among those teams who expressed an early interest and it didn’t take long for the two sides to work out a one year, $1.7MM deal. Although Johnson began the year as the backup to Brian Elliott (whose late June acquisition put an end to the Bishop-to-Calgary talks), he has taken over as the undisputed starter and told Allen that part of the allure with the Flames was that there was no incumbent starter and that there would be an open battle for the spot. So far, the contract has panned out quite nicely for both sides.
- Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov skated briefly today as he recovers from a groin injury, reports Terry Frei of the Denver Post. Head coach Jared Bednar is calling it a day by day situation but presumably, he’ll need at least a couple of days of facing shots in practice before he’s ready to return. Calvin Pickard should continue to get the starts in Varlamov’s absence.