Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman added to his repertoire of goaltenders in a big way – literally – approximately an hour before the conclusion of this year’s NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday afternoon.
Yzerman dealt rookie forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for 6-foot-7 goaltender Ben Bishop, who posted an 8-5-1 record to go along with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in 13 games for the Senators this season prior to the trade.
“We’ve had a chance to watch him for a couple of years, and he’s a big guy and he handles the puck well, so moving forward we believe that he will really solidify our goaltending,” Yzerman said.
Bishop, who is a restricted free agent after the season, is expected to compete with Anders Lindback for the number-one job next season provided Bishop re-signs with the Lightning, which is Yzerman’s expectation.
“The idea is to get him signed,” Yzerman added. “That is our intention and we expect that to get done and to move forward into next season with Anders and Ben. They’re both relatively young guys with great potential.”
Early reports from television network sources who broke the trade characterized the deal as good for both teams.
Ottawa, which is 24th in the league averaging just 2.42 goals per game, is in need of scoring, while Tampa Bay’s goaltending duo of Lindback and Mathieu Garon has combined to post a cumulative 2.97 goals-against average this year, which is in the bottom two-thirds of the league rankings among all 30 clubs.
As for the Senators netminders, those duties were already being carried out by Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner, making Bishop the odd-man out.
“I’m excited and I think it will be a lot of fun,” Bishop said of coming to Tampa Bay. “Steve Yzerman adds a lot of credibility, Jon Cooper has won everywhere he’s gone, and I know some of the guys on the team, so I can’t wait to get down there are start playing.”
Bishop is familiar with current Lightning players Eric Brewer and BJ Crombeen from his days with the St. Louis Blues, which drafted him in 2005, but then which traded him to Ottawa for a second-round pick in February 2011.
He is now reunited with those former teammates, as well as former college teammate Teddy Purcell, in Tampa Bay, where Yzerman is looking forward to both Bishop and Lindback contributing.
“I think it’s good to have,” Yzerman said of having both netminders competing for the number-one spot. “They can feed off each other and it takes some of the load off of one another to develop and work at their own pace. They are both guys who have good upside. Pairing them both together doesn’t mean we’re throwing one to the wolves so to speak, but over the course of an entire season, it will give us an opportunity to allow them to both play.”
The Bolts general manager said he did have interest in Bishop a year ago, but that he “opted to go in a different direction.”
He did, however, acknowledge the situation as fortunate that Bishop became available again this year, while at the same time re-emphasizing that he was content in acquiring him.
As for Conacher, Yzerman said he is a “heck of a player.”
But, “with so much depth at forward,” he added, “we had the ability to do this.”
Yzerman also said he received several calls about Conacher, who he described as “a valuable commodity” and that in dealing him, “we could maximize our value.”
Conacher is second among rookies with 24 points this season, but he has two goals and two assists in the past 12 games. Still, Yzerman said, “he is an asset.”
But as Yzerman’s decision at Wednesday’s deadline showed, so is Bishop.
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