Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Ben Bishop stays put with Lightning but Stamkos' status grows shakier

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Goalie Ben Bishop is still with the Lightning, at least for now, his chances of starting the season in Tampa Bay seeming to increase after not getting dealt during Friday's first round of the NHL draft.

But captain Steven Stamkos might have taken one step closer to leaving.

Calgary had targeted Bishop in a potential trade, but Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he didn't come close to dealing the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist.

The Flames ended up trading for Blues goalie Brian Elliott, giving up the 35th overall pick Friday and a conditional third rounder next year. The Flames were given permission to discuss a potential contract with Bishop's camp, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported, but those talks were never initiated.

However, there likely will be many talks initiated starting today with Stamkos, who at midnight Friday reached the five-day interview window, where interested teams can court him. He'll be an unrestricted free agent — he now has a full no-move clause — July 1.

There will be no shortage of suitors, notably the Red Wings, who created significant cap space by dealing the contract of Pavel Datsyuk, GM Ken Holland saying they're targeting an impact forward in free agency to replace him.

"Well, obviously we've got the flexibility now to do what we want to do," Holland said. "We'll see."

Yzerman maintained he hasn't closed any doors on signing the 26-year-old Stamkos, or ruled anything out, but he didn't seem optimistic when asked if he still felt like Tampa Bay had a shot, even with Stamkos talking to other teams.

"I'd prefer not to share how I feel," he said, smiling.

The Lightning has reportedly offered Stamkos an extension with an annual average of $8.5 million, likely short of what other teams will offer. Asked if he has made his final offer to Stamkos, Yzerman said, "I haven't given you anything up until now, I'm going to keep it that way."

Another option, if the Lightning knows it can't sign Stamkos, would be to do a sign-and-trade deal, as Tampa Bay is the only team that can give the All-Star an eight-year deal. Yzerman said he has "never given that a thought," likely because he's focused on signing Stamkos, but he added, "maybe I should think about it."

"Losing (Stamkos) for nothing or losing him for an asset, I'd love to get an asset," Yzerman said.

The same goes for Bishop, 29. Yzerman knows that with an expansion draft looming next summer before a new Las Vegas team enters the league, he'd likely lose either Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy, 21. Bishop, who has one year left on his deal at $5.95 million, could get dealt this summer or before next season's trade deadline, but the Flames getting Elliott took one big potential suitor off the market.

Calgary snagged Elliott — who, like Bishop, has one year left on his deal — for likely less than Bishop would have commanded. Some wondered if a potential offer for Bishop would have included the sixth overall pick, which Calgary used to draft wing Matt Tkachuk. Elliott's return was similar to what the Ducks got from the Leafs for Frederik Andersen (30th overall pick this season and a second-round pick next season).

Yzerman is prepared to deal a goalie, if it makes sense, but it just didn't on Friday.

"I would prefer to get an asset than lose one of these guys," Yzerman said. "I think I will lose one in expansion."

Whether Yzerman has lost Stamkos remains to be seen.

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

   
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