With the NHL free agency in full swing, many teams begin to consider their options in regards to seeking out new talent for the upcoming season. Some are looking to trade or release players to make cap space, while others are deep on the hunt to find their next piece to the puzzle that is the Stanley Cup. The Tampa Bay Lightning are one of those teams making some waves in this off-season. They look to secure their future stars for the long term while also shopping the free agency market to see what kind of deals they may be able to get. Some of their notable moves thus far include signing star forward Steven Stamkos to an 8-year, $68 million deal, and defenseman Victor Hedman also to an 8-year deal worth $63 million.
Goaltending is their strong suit
The Lightning have also made another notable signing in goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy to a 3-year deal worth $10.5 million. This particular move made a statement for Tampa Bay, possibly even more than the Stamkos signing. The re-signing of Vasilevskiy could make it possible for the Lightning to deal Ben Bishop this off-season. It also shows that the team is confident in a future with Vasilevskiy, especially after the playoff performance he put up last year. When Bishop got hurt, the 21-year-old from Russia was put in to keep the Lightning’s playoff dreams alive. He took the team through an incredibly tough seven-game series against the Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals and showed a tremendous amount of heart and skill throughout the series.
Vasilevskiy’s future at Tampa Bay has a couple of options. If Ben Bishop remains on the team for next season we can expect him to split the season of games with Vasilevskiy. But if Bishop is traded we will see the young Russian play close to the 60 game mark.
What to do with Ben Bishop?
A columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, Tom Jones, believes that the time to trade Bishop is now: “Bishop gets hurt too much, he’s due too much money, the Lightning has a hot prospect who is ready to be a number one goalie. And chances are, the Lightning is going to lose a goalie in the next year or two anyway.”
Jones has some points in that Bishop’s contract for the remainder of his time in Tampa Bay has him making nearly $6 million per year, while the contract they just signed Vasilevskiy to only pays $3.5 million per year. Also, with the NHL expansion draft coming in 2017, Tampa Bay could be losing one of their starter goalies anyway. Tampa Bay could also simply enter next season with both goaltenders and make their decision towards the trade deadline or even next summer if need be.