Looming expansion draft could force Bishop, Fleury trades
With the expansion draft slated to take place next offseason, a lot of general managers are fiddling with their rosters to assure they won’t lose anyone of value, particularly in goal. Each team is only allowed to protect one goalie, and although only three goalies will be selected at max, you certainly do not want to find yourself on the short end of the stick.
The Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning are two teams with crucial decisions to make in the near future. Both have young goalies in Vasilevskiy and Murray, as well as more seasoned goalies in Bishop and Fleury. All four are able to handle NHL action, which makes them desirable to move before they are taken in the draft. But, it needs to be done quick, as time and suitors are running out.
It is assumed, rightfully, that the Lightning will go with Vasilevskiy and the Penguins will go with Murray seeing that both are the younger and more cost-controlled options. That leaves Ben Bishop and Marc-Andre Fleury as fair game to be moved in the next year or be lost to Las Vegas.
The Calgary Flames are the obvious option here. Ever since Mikka Kipprusoff retired, goaltending has not been at a premium for the Flames. Last season, the trio of Joni Ortio, Jonas Hiller, and Karri Ramo was horrific — so bad that two of the three goalies are even with the organization anymore. If the Flames can swoop in and get a proven goaltender like Fleury or Bishop, their playoff odds, especially because they are in the Pacific Division, will rise tremendously.
This does not necessarily mean, however, that Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay will move one of their goalies this offseason. But the race is on. Bishop is in the last year of his contract, and with the expansion draft on the horizon and his pending unrestricted free agency, it’s now or never to get a good return. If you wait until next year on Bishop, you’re trading his rights — which will get you a mid-round pick at best.
Fleury, on the other hand, has a little more flexibility. He has three more years, including the 2016-2017 season, left on his deal. That means if a team were to trade for him next offseason, they could protect him and still have two guaranteed seasons with him. But with such a high number of goalies in the market and a low number of takers, how long can the Penguins afford to wait? Dealing him now from a position of strength may be the smartest thing to do.
In theory, both the Penguins and Lightning have at least one season to decide what they are going to do with their goaltending situation, but in actuality it may all come to a head this summer. The market for goalies will certainly change over the coming weeks and it’s uncertain what will happen, but rest assured, something will have to happen.
Marc-Andre Fleury: Calgary Flames, Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks
Ben Bishop: Calgary Flames, New York Islanders