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Lightning finally has depth in goal

Carolina’s Jiri Tlusty tries to score against Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop (30) during the third period on Thursday.

Associated Press

Carolina’s Jiri Tlusty tries to score against Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop (30) during the third period on Thursday.

It's easy to look at trades in their immediacy to ask if this is going to work for a team now. And that certainly applies to the Lightning's acquisition last week of Ben Bishop, who addresses an acute need in goal.

But the trade has implications for the future, too. Now the organization does not have to rush the development of Andrey Vasilevskiy, the No. 19 overall draft pick last year who likely will be Russia's goalie at this year's world championship.

Actually, the organization has depth in net like never before, including Adam Wilcox at the University of Minnesota and Jaroslav Janus, whom Tampa Bay wants to bring back to North America after a successful season in the KHL.

But Vasilevskiy, 6 feet 3, 210 pounds, is the gem.

"This kid looks like a No. 1 goalie," Ray Ferraro, an analyst for Canada's TSN TV network, said in his on-air trade analysis. "He's big. He presents himself in the net like a guy you believe can carry the ball."

But he is 18 years old and yet to be exposed to the North American game.

"This, though," said former Flames general manager and current NHL Network analyst Craig Button about the Bishop deal, "allows Vasilevskiy to develop at his own rate."

It is something, isn't it? The team that has used 19 goaltenders since Nikolai Khabibulin led it to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship has the promise, at least, of long-term stability in net.

Granted, next season will tell a lot as Bishop and Anders Lindback begin their experiment sharing the responsibilities in net. And if that doesn't work, general manager Steve Yzerman — who has given up, in total, two second-round picks, a third, a fourth and Cory Conacher for Bishop and Lindback — will have to take the heat.

But if it works, look at the options Tampa Bay will have down the road: the ability finally to build outward from its goaltending; tradable assets, whether it be Bishop, Lindback or anyone in the pipeline; and perhaps a stable bridge to Vasilevskiy.

The Lightning, and Yzerman, can only hope.

. fast facts

Stacked in goal

The Lightning's goaltending depth has never been better:

PLAYER AGE TEAM

Ben Bishop 26 Lightning

Anders Lindback 24 Lightning

Mathieu Garon* 35 Lightning

Cedrick Desjardins 27 Syracuse (AHL)

Riku Helenius 25 Syracuse (AHL)

Pat Nagle 25 Florida (ECHL)

Adam Wilcox 20 Minnesota (NCAA)

Andrey Vasilevskiy 18 Ufa (KHL)

Jaroslav Janus 23 Slovan Bratislava (KHL)

* Pending unrestricted free agent will not be re-signed.

Lightning finally has depth in goal 04/06/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 11:38pm]

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