Should Lightning ride - or trade - Ben Bishop?
Still want to trade Ben Bishop?
The Lightning goaltender is playing some of his best hockey of the season. And, depending on how you look at it, the timing couldn't be any better.
With Tampa Bay fightning for its playoff life, Bishop has won his last four starts, including Sunday's 3-2 overtime victory in Colorado. The Lightning has won four of its last six, with all four victories started by Bishop, who has a 1.21 goals against average in that span.
So it should come as no surprise that Bishop is starting Tuesday against the Oilers. Coach Jon Cooper said the team's improved defensive play and Bishop's resurgence go hand in hand.
"He's just in command of his game," Cooper said. "He looks intimidating when he's in there. He's making saves with ease. He's not giving up rebounds."
Said Bishop: "I feel like I'm getting some bounces now, not getting many fluky ones. Guys are playing well and it's kind of a snowball effect. Hopefully we can keep building."
When asked if he'd consider riding Bishop more, Cooper said both goalies have played well in the six-game point streak, and that will continue.
"There's no sense in sitting here saying, 'We're going to ride one.'" Cooper said. "Is playing one guy two in a row riding him? I say playing someone 10 games in a row is riding him. I don't see that happening."
But will Bishop be here to ride after the Mar. 1 deadline? Bishop, nearly dealt to the Flames at the June NHL Draft, has been the subject of trade rumors all season, and will continue to be all week. Bishop's recent play has no doubt helped his trade value. But has it also led the Lightning to want to hold onto him, giving them the best chance to make the playoffs?
"I don't want to lose any of our guys at the trade deadline," Cooper said."We're in a different position now than we've been since I've been here. I don't believe in the whole buyers and sellers. It's how are we going to make the playoffs? We've got an unreal management team that's looking beyond this year.
"This team has stayed together three straight years, we've had the same group and had a lot of success with that group. We've got this group in the room and we're going to roll with them."
By holding on to Bishop, who is an unrestricted free agent next summer, the Lightning would potentially lose him for nothing next summer; well, other than saving $6 million in cap space. It's tough to know what the market is for goaltenders now. The Stars have fallen out of playoff contention, and would still have to move a goalie to get one.
The Flames, who nearly acquired Bishop at the June NHL Draft, could be interested. Calgary had a scout at Sunday's Lightning game. Everything is still relatively quiet on the trade front for Bishop, who has a partial no-trade clause.
"If I'm going to move people, I'm not just giving people away here," GM Steve Yzerman said.
Bishop recently told the Times he wants to stay with Tampa Bay, but appears open to a trade if it means he can play.
"Obviously we have a great team, a great organization and great place to play," Bishop said. "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 the next game.
"But we'll see where it takes us. That's my feeling. But at the same time, I want to play too."