I have seen many wondering why Tampa Bay Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman would trade Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop. After all Conacher has shown a great deal of promise as a scorer posting 108 points in 111 American Hockey League games since the start of the 2011-12 season and 24 points in 35 games with the Lightning this season prior to his trade to the Ottawa Senators (Hockey DB).
While Ben Bishop has been no slouch posting a 0.922 save percentage in 13 games at the NHL level with the Ottawa Senators and a 0.928 save percentage in 13 games at the AHL level prior to his trade to Tampa Bay. Since arriving as a member of the Lightning he has played in four games, two of them wins, with a 2.02 goals against average and a 0.944 save percentage (Hockey DB). He has been integral in keeping the Lightning’s slim playoff hopes alive. They are eight points out with just nine games left to play (TSN).
Why was Steve Yzerman right in making this move? He dealt from a position of strength to address a weakness that he found on his roster. The Lightning have no shortage of offensive players currently at the NHL level with Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Teddy Purcell and Brett Connolly. Throw Ryan Malone and Benoit Pouliot to that mix and you have a pretty solid top seven forward combination. It became increasingly difficult to find Conacher playing time in a scoring role.
Yzerman also has a number of prospects in varying degrees of NHL readiness that are projected to be top six forwards. A few names to mention in that regard are Richard Panik, Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Tyler Johnson (Hockey’s Future).
In acquiring Ben Bishop the Lightning now have a young goaltending tandem who could both potentially be number number 1 or 1A starters in the NHL. Not to mention they measure eight feet and one inch if stacked on top of each other.
Currently the Lightning pay Anders Lindback $1.8 million until the end of next season while Ben Bishop is getting $650,000 and is a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Bishop should be in line for a contract similar to Lindback’s. Which would make for a very affordable goaltending position in regards to the lowering cap.
Mathieu Garon is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season and is getting a salary of $1.3 million. Garon has been with Tampa Bay since last season and has been a respectable backup goaltender, however at the age of 35 he is beginning to show some regression in his game. It may be prudent for the Lightning to have a veteran number three goaltender for the AHL that could be called up in case of injury. Someone in the vein of Joey MacDonald would be ideal.
Overall Tampa Bay is set up well heading into the new CBA. They have $3,285,584 projected in cap space for next season with 19 players currently signed (www.capgeek.com). They also have 11 players currently locked up for the 2014-15 season with $13,584,917 projected in cap space (CapGeek.com).
In order to create more flexibility in the cap next season Yzerman may have to look at using his amnesty buyouts this offseason. A prime candidate would be Matthias Ohlund. He was brought to Tampa Bay in 2009-10 and has been largely disappointing on the ice with 18 points in 139 games since 2009-10 (Hockey DB). He has not played since the end of the 2010-11 season due to problems with his knee. The 36 year old Ohlund is also due to be paid $3.6 million through the 2015-16 season.
General Manager Steve Yzerman addressed a need between the pipes for his team at the NHL level. Bishop and Lindback should battle it out for the starters job over the next couple years. With the amount of talent on this roster I believe we will see them back in the post-season next year.