As trade deadline nears, Tampa Bay Lightning has interest in St. Louis Blues AHL goalie Ben Bishop

The NHL's trade deadline is 3 p.m. Monday, which means it is worth again in this space to consider the Lightning's interest in minor-league goaltender Ben Bishop.

It is high but guarded.

The question is, is it worth it for Tampa Bay to make a bold move and turn the rest of the season over to Bishop to not only see if he is worth an investment but to perhaps save the team some money?

Bishop, 25, is considered NHL ready. He was 24-14-0 for AHL Peoria entering Saturday with a 2.26 goals-against average, a .928 save percentage and six shutouts. He is the perfect age to be a building block with center Steven Stamkos, 22, and defenseman Victor Hedman, 21.

And with two first-round picks in the June draft and up to four in the second round (one is conditional and dependent on the Panthers), making a rich enough offer to the Blues for him is not general manager Steve Yzerman's problem.

The sticking point is the unknown. The Lightning — or for that matter, any team looking for a No. 1 goalie — really doesn't know what it would get with Bishop.

The numbers are there, but they are minor-league numbers. In brief stints with St. Louis, Bishop has been ordinary, going 4-5-1 with a 2.83 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage.

The same questions surround Kings backup Jonathan Bernier, the other hot name around the league. And for now, let's discount Vancouver's Cory Schneider, who isn't going anywhere before the end of the season.

Besides, it is Bishop, stuck in St. Louis behind Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who has gotten the most hype as a potential franchise goaltender.

And here's where it gets really interesting:

Bishop, 6 feet 7, 215 pounds, has been in 11 NHL games in which he played more than 30 minutes. If he plays 17 more games, he reaches 28, which, because of his age, would shift his status to potential restricted free agent instead of unrestricted.

That not only would give Bishop's team the right to match any outside offers, it would substantially lower what it would take to re-sign him.

The Lightning will have 20 games left after the trade deadline, and Yzerman has made it clear his focus is on the future.

Is it also on Bishop?

As trade deadline nears, Tampa Bay Lightning has interest in St. Louis Blues AHL goalie Ben Bishop 02/25/12 [Last modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 9:54pm]

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