Despite stopping enough pucks to help us get to best in the West in the 2015-16 season, Dallas Stars' goaltending is still the number one topic of conversation in this off season. Well, might be tied with talk about our defense (which, let's discuss, is only getting younger as the off season continues).
Sportsnet analyst Nick Kypreos tweeted this Friday night during the first round of the draft:
This was prior to Dallas' first round pick. Nothing has been announced since then, but we have to believe it's not entirely off the table yet. TSN's Bob McKenzie told Montreal's TSN 690 that Bishop is still on the table as of Monday morning.
Do we want Ben Bishop? My answer is an unequivocal yes. Bishop carried a .926 save percentage through 61 games last season. In 2014-15, it was a .916. At 29 years old, he's only had the starting job for three seasons, but that .916 is the lowest save percentage he's had in that time frame. And that's all while facing a very similar shots-against average as the Stars, who we all know play a very "high event" style of hockey.
Meanwhile, Kari Lehtonen finished last season with a .906 save percentage in 43 games played, and Antti Niemi finished with 48 games at .905. Also, he and Lehtonen are both 32 and probably entering the twilight of their careers.
So what could a return package look like?
According to Kypreos, the Stars want the Lightning to take one of our goalies in return. That could certainly help the Lightning out with their young goaltender situation.
They've got Andrei Vasilevskiy, who will be starting his third season in the NHL in the fall. If you weren't paying attention to the Eastern Conference that much this past playoffs, Vasilevskiy was the hero of the Eastern Conference Final for the Lightning after Ben Bishop went down in the first period of the first game. No, the Lightning didn't win the series, but Vasilevskiy did take Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel (plus a couple other guys) to seven games, which not too many people expected. His success in that series is why anyone's kicking the tires on Bishop at all. His regular season save percentage was .910 in 24 games played.
Behind Vasilevskiy the Lightning have Kristers Gudlevskis, who has played precisely two games in the NHL. The good news is, he won both of them. Still, it's a long shot to trade Ben Bishop away and call Gudlevskis up as a full time back up without some sort of safety net.
And who would be a good safety net? Antti Niemi. While I'd love to actually get Lehtonen's contract off the books if we're going to take on Ben Bishop's, the Lightning have their own cap space constraints. (Though they do have some room if they don't work things out with Steven Stamkos.) So you don't have to go to General Fanager yourselves, Bishop has a cap hit of 5.95 million and is signed through next season. Lehtonen is at 5.9, and Niemi is at 4.5.
The fact that Bishop is only signed through 2016-17 would give us a chance to get a pricier goalie tandem off our books before next season when Jamie Benn's (as yet unsigned but probably substantial) raise is going to kick in. Whichever goalie Tampa would consent to would give them two solid seasons of letting their young goaltenders cook.
The Stars would also have to throw in something to sweeten the pot. If it's Niemi, I'd suggest someone like Brett Ritchie, a solid prospect who keeps getting boxed out of Dallas' line up. If Nill can convince Tampa to take Lehtonen's contract (with the bigger cap hit), the throw in would have to be someone higher up the food chain. And either way, a pick in the 2017 draft would also probably be in play.
So what do you think? Pursue Ben Bishop or wait to see what else is out there? And, if we do go after Bishop, who would you offer in return?