Yzerman: Lightning could keep both goalies all season
With an expansion draft looming, the prevailing assumption is that the Lightning will have to move either goalie Ben Bishop or backup Andrei Vasilevskiy by February's trade deadline.
Not so fast.
"Maybe, maybe not," Lightning GM Steve Yzerman told the Times Thursday.
Yzerman said not only does he expect both Bishop and Vasilevskiy to be with the Lightning on opening night Oct. 13, he didn't rule out the possibility he holds on to them both for another run at the Stanley Cup.
"That's certainly an option for us," Yzerman said. "And it's not a bad option."
Bishop, 29, has been the subject of trade speculation this summer, especially around the June NHL Draft, when he felt a deal to the Flames was "close;" Bishop said it got to the point where he even talked contract with Calgary, which eventually acquired Brian Elliott from St. Louis.
"It looked like for a little bit it was going to happen," Bishop said of a trade to Calgary.
While Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, is one of the top goalies in the world, and the best in franchise history, he's entering the final year of his contract at $5.95 million. That seems to make it more likely Bishop is dealt by the cap-strapped Lightning than Vasilevskiy, 22, who signed a three-year extension at $3.5 million annual average in July; Bishop said he hasn't had any talks with Tampa Bay about an extension.
If the Lightning decides to keep both Bishop and Vasilevskiy, it risks losing a top-quality goaltender for nothing, as the team can only protect one goalie for June's expansion draft with Las Vegas. Bishop could walk as an unrestricted free agent anyway.
But for the Lightning, which lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in May after falling two wins short in the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, holding on to Bishop and Vasilevskiy could give it the best chance to win an elusive Cup.
With Bishop's season ending with an ankle injury in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, Vasilevskiy gave the Lightning a chance to beat the eventual Cup champion Penguins before losing in seven.
"The best case scenario for us is Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are our goaltenders going into this season," coach Jon Cooper said. "They're both big parts of our team. You need two goalies to win and we think we got two gems.
"I know everybody on our team and management and ownership all the way down want these two to be our goalies."
And they might, for the entire season.