Yesterday a shockwave went through the NHL world when the Tampa Bay Lightning decided to trade pending free agent netminder Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings. Almost no one understood it at the time, as the Kings had just gotten Jonathan Quick back from injured reserve and looked set in net. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman met with the media today and explained a few things about the trade and where his franchise goes from here (video link via TSN).
I did talk to a team in the league about [Bishop] prior to the draft last year, but for whatever reason that didn’t come to fruition.
The biggest reason to make the move now, ultimately is that we’re concerned with the salary cap for next year. With what we have in some performance bonuses for our younger players we felt we’re going to be squeezed next year with the cap. We felt the need to do this right now to give ourselves as much cap space [as possible] for next year.
It’s true, the Lightning do have bonuses that will kick in this season and should they not have the cap room to pay them, would be penalized next season. By trading Bishop they have opened up a good amount in order to not have any carry over to next year, when they’ll have to re-sign Jonathan Drouin, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson among others.
While it had been speculated that as many as five teams could have had interest in Bishop to help them down the stretch and into the playoffs, Yzerman relates that the appetite wasn’t quite so ravenous around the league.
When I decided to get the deal done yesterday, that was the deal that made the most sense and to be honest with you was the only option I had. My options were to make this deal with LA or to sit tight and go through with the season.
If that’s true and there was no interest from anywhere else in the league, then Yzerman did well to clear the cap space and at least receive a prospect in the form of Erik Cernak. While Bishop would have undoubtedly helped the Lightning in their playoff push—one that he assures is still the goal of the team this season—the cost of the bonus penalties on the squad going forward would have been far greater than his impact. In getting Budaj in return, he at least addressed the issue of insurance for a Andrei Vasilevskiy injury should the team make it to the post-season.
Yzerman also spoke about Steven Stamkos and his potential return this year. Stamkos has been out November 15th and has recently begun skating again on his own. Yzerman admits that it’s not a guarantee, but that he’s progressing well. A healthy Stamkos would definitely give the team a boost as they sit just six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.