Ben Bishop hopes to stay, but also wants to play
With the trade deadline a month away, G Ben Bishop admits he doesn't know how it'll end up.
Bishop, 30, has been part of trade speculation all season, likely his last one in a Lightning uniform. The writing has been on the wall for a while, with Bishop, the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, in the final year of his deal in Tampa Bay. G Andrei Vasilevskiy, the future No. 1, is making his third start in four games Thursday against the Senators.
Bishop loves this team, the city, and would like to stay the rest of the season, potentially longer. But Bishop, who has been traded twice in his career, also appears open to a move if it means he can play. Bishop has played twice in 16 days since going back-to-back Jan. 16-17.
Bishop is a No. 1 goalie in the NHL. Where he plays next month remains to be seen.
"Obviously we have a great team, a great organization and great place to play," Bishop said Thursday. "Obviously the grass isn't always greener on the other side. You want to win where you are. You don't really think about next year, or anything but next game. But we'll see where it takes us. That's my feeling. But at the same time, I want to play, too."
Bishop, who has a limited no-move clause, has shown he's been willing to leave Tampa Bay. You saw that at the June NHL Draft when Bishop began negotiations with the Flames in preparation for a potential deal, thinking it was close, only to have it fall through. Calgary was on his list of teams Tampa Bay needed Bishop's approval for.
It doesn't sound like there's a big market for goalies is at this point, whether it is Bishop or Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman has said the trade market is quiet. There's the salary cap crunch, and many teams feeling they're still in the playoff hunt, including Tampa Bay. "We're in a dogfight," Yzerman said on the team's morning skate show today.
Yzerman isn't going to give up Bishop unless he gets the right price. But if there's a fit, it doesn't sound like Bishop would stand in the way.
"If I could do something that helped our team make a trade that identified a need for us -- not just for this year, but going forward -- I would do that and haven't been able to do that to this point," Yzerman said on the show. "And that's been going on, really, since the draft last year."
You wonder how much the uncertainty has impacted Bishop's play on the ice. Bishop has said he tries to ignore the distractions, but he's also human, and a guy who plans to get married this summer. Bishop has said he'd be lying if he said it didn't cross his mind.
Bishop is 34th in the league in save percentage at .904, 36th in goals against average at 2.83. Not all of this is on him, as the Lightning (22-23-6) hasn't always played well in front of him. Bishop has also been limited to 28 games, partly due to missing three weeks with a lower body injury, and also due to splitting time with Vasilevskiy. For a veteran like Bishop who has started 60 plus games the past three seasons, that could be tough.
You can argue it could be better to give Vasilevskiy the net and get something for Bishop, who'd have a chance to help a contending team down the stretch as he approaches unrestricted free agency. But it'd also be hard for Tampa Bay, still fighting for its playoff life, to watch Bishop go on a roll for another team. He is, after all, the best goalie in franchise history. And the Lightning still has a chance to make the playoffs if it finally puts a run together.
It's a difficult decision for Yzerman. For now, Bishop waits, like everyone else for Mar 1.
"I don't think it's going to get any harder (closer to the deadline)," Bishop said. "It was probably a little bit easier in the beginning of the year. Obviously we've been flip-flopping back and forth all year so it's been tough to get on a run. I want to play and I try to help the team when I get a chance. That's all I can really focus on."