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Lightning acquires goalie Bishop for Conacher

Ben Bishop makes a blocker save against the Toronto Maple Leafs, during a game last month.
Published Apr. 4, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. — General manager Steve Yzerman knows trading for Ben Bishop before Wednesday's deadline is not the end of the Lightning's goaltending worries.

In fact, handing next season's duties to Bishop, who at 26 years old has played just 36 NHL games, and Anders Lindback, who at 24 has played just 59, is fraught with peril.

"Yup, yup, it's definitely a concern," Yzerman said. "But I made a decision, and that's the way I want to go."

It was a decision about a year in the making.

Yzerman looked into acquiring the 6-foot-7 Bishop last season, before the Blues traded him to the Senators. At the time, he indicated the price was too high and in June got Lindback from the Predators.

But after Yzerman watched Bishop progress — he was 8-5-0 in 13 games with Ottawa, with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage — and watching Lindback struggle with the workload and responsibilities of being a No. 1, sending rookie wing Cory Conacher and a 2013 fourth-round draft pick to the Senators was a price he was willing to pay.

By sharing the net in 2013-14, Yzerman said, Bishop and Lindback can lend each other support as well as create healthy, skill-sharpening competition.

"We're not going to anoint either of them the No. 1 guy," he said. "We'll let the situation evolve. They both will play. They can look to each other to have someone to ease the load that neither player is expected to go out and start 60 games. It's a good step for each of their careers."

Goalie Mathieu Garon, an unrestricted free agent after the season, will not be re-signed.

Other moves Wednesday:

• With Bishop joining the team for tonight's game with the Hurricanes at PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., goalie Cedrick Desjardins — filling in for Lindback, out with a high ankle sprain — was sent back to AHL Syracuse. With Conacher gone, Brett Connolly, who has 27 goals, 57 points and 51 penalty minutes in 67 games, was called up from the Crunch.

• Right wing Dana Tyrell was recalled from Syracuse.

• Defenseman Andrej Sustr and forwards Ondrej Palat and Mike Angelidis were reassigned to Syracuse.

• Center Tyler Johnson, wing Richard Panik and defenseman Radko Gudas were assigned to Syracuse and recalled to Tampa Bay in paper transactions so they are eligible to play for the Crunch in the playoffs.

But those were simple moves. The trade for Bishop has tentacles that include how Yzerman, who clearly overestimated Lindback's readiness to be a No. 1, will be judged in his first job as an NHL general manager.

Let's start with giving up Conacher, 23, who leads all rookies with 15 assists and is second with 24 points.

"A talented guy. We really like him," Yzerman said, "With Brett Connolly and what we have on the wings, with Andrej Palat, Richard Panik, J.T. Brown kind of knocking at the door, we can fill that spot."

The organization is so deep at wing, Yzerman said, there might be bait there for another trade over the summer. The Lindback-Bishop combination helps there, too. Lindback will make a reasonable $2.2 million next season, and Bishop, who will be a restricted free agent after the season, is under contract for just $650,000.

As for playing with and competing against Lindback, Bishop said, "It's good. It's nothing different than Ottawa or anywhere else you play. There's always going to be competition, but you're teammates at the same time. When you get a chance to play, you've got to play well, and things will take care of themselves."

"He's ready to be a No. 1 guy," said Blues television analyst Darren Pang, a former NHL goalie who watched Bishop in St. Louis for three years.

"He plays the puck incredibly well. He's an athletic person, and what I like about him this year is he hasn't had many bad games. When he has, he's bounced back. That's the part of being a pro that tells you he's ready for his role and ready for his position."

Lightning wing B.J. Crombeen, Bishop's teammate in St. Louis, described Bishop as lanky, athletic, competitive and mobile.

"He covers a lot of net," Crombeen said. "You look at his numbers, it's a great pickup."

Yzerman hopes so.

"I'm excited about having these guys," he said. "They don't have the body of work, but we think they have great potential."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com. View his blog at lightning.tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

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