The Los Angeles Kings shipped the negotiating rights to unrestricted free-agent goalie Ben Bishop to the Stars for a fourth-round pick, one that was acquired by Dallas from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Jordie Benn (114th overall).
“Ben has proven that he is one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “This offers us the opportunity to negotiate with him before the free agency period begins.”
Bishop was a surprise acquisition by the Kings at the trade deadline from the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the sense that goaltending wasn’t their primary issue and they had a goalie signed through 2023 who was returning from injury. But hey, we’re sure whoever made that trade is still gainfully employed.
Bishop, 30, had a rough go of it last season, with a .910 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average in 39 games between the Bolts and Kings. He battled injuries and inconsistency. But he was coming off a year in which he had a .926 save percentage and an NHL-best 2.06 GAA, earning him a Vezina Trophy finalist spot for the second time in his career.
Bishop played in Frisco, Texas as an 18-year-old in 2004-05 with the Texas Tornado, who played in the North American Hockey League at that time.
So will the Stars lasso this 6-foot-7 steer?
The odds of the Stars now signing Bishop are good. Teams that trade for a player’s rights typically find a way to get a deal done. Bishop, who had a cap hit of $5.95 million last season, could be looking for a five- or six-year contract at somewhere close to that figure.
That would give Dallas by far the highest goaltending cost in the NHL next season. The Stars have Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million) and Antti Niemi ($4.5 million) under contract for next season. If they keep Lehtonen and buy out Niemi (a $1.5 million cap hit for two seasons), the Stars could have more than $13 million in cap hit dedicated to goaltending for one season.
First off, a goalie duo of Bishop and Lehtonen, while not fiscally pleasing, would be rather solid.
Anything is better than the current duo. No, seriously, anything would be: The Stars were last in the NHL in team save percentage at .893.
But having $13 million committed to two goalies isn’t ideal, given the Stars’ other needs. One wonders if it’s worth it for Dallas to make ye olde side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to select Lehtonen in the expansion draft. But that would have to be quite the enticement, likely plying them with draft picks. (The Stars do have a few.)
Bottom line: Bishop to the Stars is a smart move for both parties. He’s an upgrade in goal. And in case you haven’t noticed, teams tend to get better defensively in hurry when Ken Hitchcock arrives behind the bench, which is good news for Bishop.
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