By Kyle Sandulli
The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a lot of questions that needed answers this off season. There were UFAs aplenty and hockey legend Steve Yzerman has been implementing his Yzer-plan to the highest degree of efficiency. The contract Yzerman worked out with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman were nothing short of miraculous – but there are still troubles plaguing the team.
Enter Ben Bishop. Two-time Vezina trophy finalist. Extreme athlete. Very tall. Probably loves dogs. At the end of the 2016-2017 season, he will become an UFA – and that spells trouble. Many speculated he would be traded during this off season to create more cap space for other contracts – such as Nikita Kucherov’s pending contract as he remains a RFA. But Bishop’s trade didn’t happen – he still remains with the team, ready to start alongside his backup Andrei Vasilevskiy. The fact that Bishop wasn’t traded creates a complicated situation for the Tampa Bay Lightning, mainly that they won’t be able to afford everyone for the 2017-2018 season (and don’t even get me started about the expansion draft). Kucherov is going to demand a hefty raise, and it is likely someone will have to be traded to make room for his new found riches.
Yet, even with a potential trade up and coming, the salary cap isn’t going away. The Lightning will still have a cap problem, and Bishop will still need a raise come the season’s end. So what is the solution? Andrei Vasilevskiy looked great in net when Big Ben was injured during Game 1 against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps Yzerman is hoping Vasilevskiy will step up to the challenge and fill some (very) big shoes for the team, and when he is good and ready, Bishop will be phenomenal trade fodder. If Vasy can’t step up to the challenge, though, Tampa will run into some issues as the trade deadline approaches on March 1st. Someone will have to go, be it Bishop, or someone we’d all rather not see leave, like Tyler Johnson.
At the end of the day, Bishop’s upcoming contract will cause problems, and that’s something we need to worry about in the future as an organization. But I think we can all agree that we’re very glad Matt Carle’s contract was bought out.