Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop had been on an absolute tear and was a huge reason why the Bolts find themselves in the Eastern Conference Finals. That all changed in a moment when Bishop had to be stretchered off the ice with an apparent left leg injury. 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy will now be forced to step in.
With the proposed Expansion Draft rules allowing for teams to only protect one goalie, any news involving solid goalies is significant to Las Vegas.
Bishop has one year left on his contract which will leave him as an unrestricted free agent heading into the 2017-18 season, the expected inaugural season in Vegas.
With Vasilevskiy on the roster and the Expansion Draft looming it’s possible the Bolts could simply let Bishop walk. But based on Bishop’s play throughout the season and in the playoffs it is likely the Lightning would prefer to re-sign him at the end of this year in order to keep him from hitting the free market the following season.
Now with Bishop sidelined, Tampa Bay, and maybe more importantly, the rest of the NHL will have an opportunity to take a look at Vasilevskiy in the most pressure packed games hockey has to offer.
Most think very highly of the young goalie, and he played well relieving Bishop following the injury in Game 1, but the rest of the series will be an excellent measuring stick of exactly where the 21-year-old stands at this point.
If the Lightning feel comfortable with Vasilevskiy moving forward, they can let Bishop walk at the end of 2016-17. However, if they want to retain Bishop, who is coming off his best season in the NHL and a Vezina Trophy finalist, things get a little hairy with the Expansion Draft.
Bishop currently has a No Movement Clause in his contract and if he’s re-signed that clause will likely remain. Therefore, the Bolts would be forced to protect Bishop and leave Vasilevskiy exposed. As mentioned with the Marc-Andre Fleury/Matt Murray situation, Tampa could swing an expansion trade with Las Vegas, but otherwise the 6’4″ Russian goalie could wind up between the pipes at T-Mobile Arena in October 2017.
So, what are we cheering for here in Vegas? Well, it really can go either way. If Vasilevskiy is excellent and leads the Bolts to the Cup, Bishop may end up a free agent in Las Vegas’ first year. But if Vasilevskiy doesn’t completely blow the socks off Steve Yzerman, Bishop may remain in Tampa Bay and the Lightning will have a decision to make before the Expansion Draft.
In the end, there’s really only one bad scenario for Las Vegas, and that’s Vasilevskiy being terrible. It’s unlikely, but if he does indeed stink up the joint, he may lose some of his value, and maybe his confidence as well. The best case scenario in every situation is to see teams having too many good players so they’ll have to make tough decisions. The more talent top teams have, the more wiggle room the Las Vegas GM will have to work some magic. The possibilities really are endless.