One of the bigger names has taken his name off the open market as Ben Bishop, who arguably would have been the top option for teams looking for goaltending help, has inked a six-year agreement to remain with the Dallas Stars. Of course the Stars had acquired the veteran netminder earlier this week, sending a fourth-round draft choice to Los Angeles to secure exclusive negotiating rights to Bishop. The club and Bishop concluded negotiations fairly quickly and it’s evident given the terms of the arrangement that both parties believed this was a perfect match. Dallas clearly feels they’ve solved their longstanding issues between the pipes and Bishop has decided he wants to be a Star for what should amount to be the rest of his career. Let’s check in on reactions from around the league on the deal.
- Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News calls the deal “team friendly” considering the cap hit comes in under $5MM annually. Bishop accounted for almost $6MM per season on the soon-to-expire contract he signed with Tampa Bay two years ago and likely could have exceeded that number had he reached the open market. Instead he chose the security of a long-term deal with a Dallas team he feels is “primed to win now.” Heika goes on to write that Dallas is expected to go with a Bishop-Kari Lehtonen duo in goal, suggesting that the team will likely buy Antti Niemi out if they can’t find a trade partner for his services. That plan doesn’t come without its flaws as the Stars would have more than $12MM tied up in its goaltenders for 2017-18; a figure that accounts for roughly 17% of the salary cap. While goaltending was certainly the team’s Achilles heel last season, the Stars will also likely be on the lookout for a blue line upgrade this summer. Even after extending Bishop and with Niemi still on the books, Dallas will have roughly $15MM to spend and that should be enough to bring in some competent help on the back end.
- TSN’s Scott Cullen takes a look at the deal through the lens of statistical analysis and concludes that Dallas is taking a risk while betting big on Bishop. Using Corsica Hockey’s “expected goals” metric, Cullen notes that Bishop ranks 23rd of 54 goalies to have played in 80 games over the last four seasons in expected goal differential per 60 minutes and in all game situations. Ironically, incumbent starter Kari Lehtonen ranked slightly higher than Bishop using that metric. Cullen also cites Bishop’s age – he’ll turn 31 in November – as a concern given the overall length of the pact. Additionally, even with an expected Niemi buyout, Cullen argues that the Stars “goaltending fiasco has been expensive.”
- Lastly, Jared Clinton of The Hockey News writes that the Calgary Flames, one of the teams expected to show strong interest in Bishop had he reached free agency, still have plenty of options as they look to upgrade their goaltending situation this summer. Clinton lists Detroit’s Jimmy Howard, Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury and the Islanders Jaroslav Halak as potential trade targets. Additionally, the scribe mentions Steve Mason as a possible free agent fit. Interestingly, Clinton also suggests re-signing Brian Elliott, writing: “Elliott had been so very good over the three seasons prior to coming to Calgary that it’s hard to imagine he’s going to struggle as mightily once he takes the ice in 2017-18.” He also points out that Elliott’s poor 2016-17 would conceivably lower his asking price, making the veteran netminder the least expensive option on the market. That’s no small consideration for a Calgary team that rarely spends to the salary cap ceiling and may want to allocate their resources to upgrade other positions as well.
Ultimately, the Flames best bet may be to re-sign Elliott on the cheap and bring in another veteran on a short-term deal, perhaps Mason, to compete for the #1 job. Mason, who has battled inconsistency and injury during his career, has displayed flashes of being an excellent goalie at times. Given his up-and-down play, the former Calder Trophy winner should be amenable to a one-year, prove-it type of contract. Elliott, meanwhile, has been at his best in a timeshare situation and could again thrive while competing against a veteran such as Mason.