Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Another New Jersey

This post has nothing to do with New Jersey as a location, but it does have to do with another new jersey for Ben Bishop. Seen to the left in a Tampa Bay Rays uniform, Ben Bishop's rights were traded today for a fourth-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings to the Dallas Stars as the Stars look to shore up their netminding issues. Bishop, who will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, now has the ability to negotiate with the Dallas Stars until that time, and it sounds as if the Stars are very interesting in locking up the goaltender in a deal that will solidify their crease defender position for some time.

While some may say that having three goaltenders in Bishop, Kari Lehtonen, and Antti Niemi on the payroll could cause GM Jim Nill some headaches if Las Vegas decided not to opt for one of Niemi or Lehtonen in the expansion draft, I don't think Nill cares much about that scenario right now.

"We still have to get the contract done, but I'm pretty confident we're going to get that done," Nill told reporters. "Ben is excited about coming to Dallas. He's got a history there. It's a place that he enjoys, I think he likes our team and the potential of our team.

"I'm hope that this can move along pretty quick. We'll see where it all goes. But I'm hoping this isn't an extended negotiation."

To be fair, Bishop's numbers last season weren't going to wow anyone. He was 18-15-5, including going 2-3-2 after the trade from Tampa Bay to Los Angeles, and he posted a 2.54 GAA and a .910 save percentage. Granted, those numbers were considerably better than Lehtonen's 22-25-7 record, his 2.85 GAA, and his .902 save percentage as well as Niemi's 12-12-4 record, his 3.30 GAA, and his .892 save percentage, but the bar was set pretty low in Dallas last season when it came to goaltending. Nill is hoping Bishop can find the same form in Dallas as he has in Tampa Bay in 2015-16 when he went 35-21-4 with a 2.06 GAA and a .926 save percentage. Those numbers would translate to a drastic increase in points for the Stars as they look to return to the playoffs next season and erase the memories of having the second-worst GAA in the NHL and the worst save percentage among all teams.

The Central Division's playoff teams this season had solid, bonafide starting netminders - Chicago with Crawford, Minnesota with Dubnyk, St. Louis with Allen, and Nashville with Rinne. The teams that got poor goaltending - Dallas and Winnipeg - saw their playoff hopes flicker when the stakes were raised in the second-half of the season. By getting Bishop, the Stars are looking at matching the puck-stopping abilities of at least one of those four teams mentioned above.

By acquiring the rights to Bishop, the Stars also potentially weakened another Western Conference playoff team in the Calgary Flames. The Flames were reportedly interested in pursuing Bishop this summer via free agency as they too were looking to shore up their netminding issues. The asterisk to this story, though, was that Bishop submitted a list of teams to Los Angeles to where he preferred to be traded, and Calgary was not on that list. That's not to say that he wouldn't have listened to an offer, but the fact is that he didn't want to go to Calgary if the Los Angeles Kings were looking for a trading partner. If you want to ramp up some early controversy for next season, there's a juicy tidbit.

While it's obvious nothing is even close to being finalized yet, the Dallas Stars may have found their man when it comes to their last line of defence. Ken Hitchcock will employ a defensive strategy just as he's always done in his previous stops in the NHL, so expect Bishop's numbers to improve next season. That being said, the Dallas Stars should be better with better goaltending provided by Bishop, and that raises the stakes in the Central Division once more.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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