Superstar goalie and impending free agent Ben Bishop has been traded by the Tampa Lightning to the Los Angeles Kings. TSN’s Bob McKenzie was the first to break the news. The return for Tampa is confirmed to be 2016-17 surprise Peter Budaj, 2015 second-round defenseman Erik Cernak, a 2017 seventh-round pick, and another conditional 2017 pick. Details of the conditional pick are complicated, but in essence there is no pick if the Kings miss the playoffs and can go as high as a second-rounder depending on L.A.’s postseason success and Bishop’s play.
If this trade confuses you, you’re not alone, as it is officially the biggest surprise of the 2017 NHL Trade Deadline to date and will be tough to beat. The Kings just got back starter Jonathan Quick last night, after he had missed all but one game this season with injury. This is the same Quick that led the team to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and 2014 and has a career 2.26 goals against average, a Conn Smythe, a Jennings, and an All-Star appearance. In his return, Quick allowed just one goal on 33 shots against the rival Anaheim Ducks and looked like he was fully healthy and ready to lead the Kings back into a playoff spot. So is Bishop an insurance policy for the stretch run? It’s possible. Bishop is an impending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and would be, without question, the top goaltender on the open market. As far as deadline deals go, the Kings did not give up that much either. As good as Budaj has been, the 34-year-old was not in L.A.’s long-term plans. Cernak is a solid defensive prospect, playing for the OHL’s Erie Otters, who has a smart, responsible defensive style, but Cernak also lacks much offensive punch and was the King’s third or fourth-best defensive prospect at best.
The truly strange situation is that the Kings are currently fifth in the Pacific Division and sitting outside of a playoff spot and if they are going to get in, need scoring and not better goaltending. Budaj has been stellar and Quick is finally healthy. So why give up anything for Bishop when you may not even make the playoffs. It seems like Los Angeles could possibly have future plans for Bishop then. So does that mean Quick is on the trade block? Bishop’s career numbers are slightly superior to Quick’s, but Quick is the established goalie in Los Angeles and is signed long-term with a decent $5.8MM cap hit until 2022-23. Bishop would more than likely command a greater salary than that on the open market. So what’s the next move for GM Dean Lombardi and the L.A. Kings.
Meanwhile, the Lightning have received a solid backup to Andrei Vasilevskiy for the remainder of the season and possibly beyond, a young defenseman (which they are in need of), and some picks for a player they were willing to let walk in free agency. While many will debate this trade from the Kings side for the next month plus, GM Steve Yzerman can rest easy that he got something for nothing at this deadline in a time where Tampa Bay needs any good news they can get.