Ben Bishop playing it safe with contract extension

Ben Bishop Lightning

Ben Bishop inked a two-year extension Saturday to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Photo by Charles Schelle

The molasses-like flow of August hockey news spilled in today with Ben Bishop inking a two-year extension with the Lightning.

Bishop signing now takes away the largest question mark for Bolts free agents next season, relegating the choices to who the back-up goalie will be, if Brenden Morrow will have anything left in the tank and if Eric Brewer has earned his keep. (With his reduced minutes, yes.)

The signing helps stabilize the lineup for this and next season making a strong run possible and helps general manager Steve Yzerman focus on getting a Stamkos extension done next year.

Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune reports that Bishop’s deal is worth $11.9 million with a $5.95 million cap hit each year. Bishop, who is still rehabbing an injured elbow, thinks it’s a fair shake considering he’s still out to prove himself and he got a little banged up:

“I didn’t want to head into training camp and then maybe play half a season with (no new contract) in the back of my mind because as much as you like to say that it’s not a distraction, it usually is,’’ Bishop said. “So it was nice to get this over with, I think it’s a fair deal for both sides and I’m really excited to be a part of this organization for another three years.’’

Yet, his raise immediately shows that going for goaltending on the cheap has ended. Clearly Ben Bishop has won out the goalie talent show for the organization, as his cap hit is now the second highest on the team, only behind Steven Stamkos’ $7.5 million hit, according to CapGeek. Previously, Ryan Callahan’s new contract stood as the second-highest hit. Matt Carle then rounds out the list with a $5.5 million cap hit. Having four years remaining on Carle’s deal coupled with a large cap hit might see him being unloaded in favor of keeping and resigning Eric Brewer.

Shelling out $6 million used to be a top salary for a goaltender in the league. That has changed so much. Fourteen goaltenders make $6 million or more per season with Henrik Lundqvist making a ridiculous $11 million a year.  In that list, four have Stanley Cup rings either as a starter or back-up—Tuuka Rask, Cam Ward, Jonathan Quick and Corey Crawford. Marc-Andre Fleury barely gets cut off on this list with his $5.75 million cap hit—lower than Bishop’s.

The King, Jimmy Howard and Roberto Luongo are the only other goalies to have appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals making $6 million or more. (Of note, despite Wikipedia’s claims, here’s an interview where Ken Holland said Howard was not given a ring for his time as a Black Ace in 2008.)

Pekka Rinne makes the most for any goaltender not to have played in the Stanley Cup Finals, at $7 million a season. Also on that list is Carey Price, Kari Lehtonen, Sergei Bobrovksy, Semyon Varlamov, Ryan Miller and Mike Smith. A mix of strong regular seasons and international play is apparently good enough for some of these other netminders. Varlamov and Bobrovksy helped their teams overachieve to get into the playoffs, and Lehtonen ought to get credit for doing the same for Dallas.

I can’t think what his raise is going to look like. The only way the fan base will feel comfortable with a substantial raise beyond what Bishop will make in his extension years if there is another Stanley Cup banner added to the rafters at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Bishop being faithful is great considering how he tried to stick with his hometown St. Louis Blues, but that didn’t pan out, proving how dreamlike those “come home” scenarios are. (Are you listening Toronto?) It led to Bishop heading to Ottawa for a draft pick, eventually falling in the lap of Tampa in exchange for a once promising Cory Conacher.

So if it makes you any more comfortable, you can safely buy a Ben Bishop T-shirt that ought to last you three years. And hey, the Florida sales tax holiday ends Sunday, so there’s some extra motivation.

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