The Tampa Bay Lightning had every reason to make the move they did on Sunday, sending goalie Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings for a prospect and picks.
There are the obvious ones, like finally handing the net to “goalie of the future” Andrei Vasilevskiy. The timeshare between Bishop and Vasilevskiy had gone on long enough. Factor in that Bishop would bolt in free agency in July, and GM Steve Yzerman had to make a move.
And then there are the not-so-obvious reasons, like the salary cap space this move creates for the Lightning with bonuses for current players and upcoming offseason moves.
With 15 RFA's this summer, #Tampa could ill afford an Overage chewing up valuable cap space. Bishop trade gives them some flexibility there.— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) February 27, 2017
Finding a willing trade partner willing to give back a backup goalie was key.
But ... Los Angeles?
Nobody expected that, not until Dennis Bernstein of The Fourth Period started reporting the trade was in the works mid-afternoon. It happened so quickly, and with a team so off everyone’s radar, that it left us wondering why it happened at all.
After four months of rehab, Kings franchise goalie Jonathan Quick returned from a groin injury on Saturday. He didn’t look rusty at all. Peter Budaj had filled in admirably for him all season. With Quick back in the fold and Budaj trusted to fill in when necessary, why go out and get Bishop?
The delicious immediate idea was that this is a trade-and-trade ... perhaps shipping Bishop to Dallas for Patrick Sharp and letting Jeff Zatkoff or Jack Campbell back up Quick the rest of the season.
It sounds like the reasoning from GM Dean Lombardi is much more simple: Quick’s injury is making him reconsider how hard he works his franchise player.
"I think the days of playing Quick 70 games like we did 2 years ago makes no sense (anymore)" - Lombardi— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) February 27, 2017
Step back from the trade for a second and you find this makes all kinds of sense for the Kings.
The Kings have 21 games left. Of those, 10 of them are in back-to-back situations. Any team in L.A.’s position (10 points back of the Oilers in the Pacific and three points back of St. Louis in the wild card) would need to ride their elite goalie without rest the whole way to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles can’t afford doing that to Quick. What’s the point of making the playoffs if Quick can’t play? Or, worse, if he aggravates his groin to the point it affects his career path?
I loved this chart from Hockey Graphs’ Sean Tierney yesterday plotting the age/contender status of every NHL team:
Avg age vs avg impact (XPM)— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) February 26, 2017
Bright futures in WPG and CBJ.
The time to win is now in PIT, LA, SJ.
TOR and BUF are developing.
The window for playoff contention is starting to close for the Kings. Quick is back, but they needed help to get an extra push to the playoffs to prop that window open wider this season.
Lombardi said Bishop "isn't an insurance policy"... He will play, along with Quick, down the stretch.— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) February 27, 2017
Lombardi said he and Tampa Bay's Steve Yzerman were working on Bishop deal for two or three weeks.— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) February 27, 2017
So you take a deep breath, accept Tampa Bay’s price, and take a big swing at the playoff race. You protect your elite goalie’s health for the present moment and the future. And you reaffirm your commitment to (and expectation of) playoff success to your team.
The Kings weren’t on anyone’s radar as Bishop sailed along trade winds this season. It turns out they were the most logical destination. Lombardi said the logic behind the trade wasn’t that complicated. It’s fun to think about the other shoe that could drop here, but it’s kind of nice just realizing how well the shoe fits right now.