The Dallas Stars made out like bandits on Friday.
Three days after acquiring his rights from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a fourth-round pick, the Stars signed goaltender Ben Bishop to an incredibly cap-friendly six-year contract. The deal comes with an average annual value of just $4,916,667.
Bishop, who will be 31 in November, was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. He was traded to Ottawa in 2012 after Senators starting netminder Craig Anderson sustained an off-ice hand injury that kept him out of the lineup indefinitely, which hastened the trade. Bishop was then traded to Tampa Bay in April of 2013. He spent parts of five seasons with the Lightning and put together two Vezina Trophy-nominated campaigns.
Interestingly, within the past year, the Lightning decided to move on from Bishop primarily due to cap constraints. Bishop has had some injury issues through the years, but the team decided to go with Andrei Vasilevskiy primarily because Bishop was due to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and would be seeking a contract in the $7-8 million range. As a result, the team signed Vasilevskiy to a three-year extension with a cap hit of $3.5 million and eventually traded Bishop to the Kings at the deadline.
Ironically, Bishop just signed a contract with a cap hit of $4,916,667 a year. Not $8 million, not $7 million and not even $5 million. Just $4.916 million per year.
There are a few factors that explain this discrepancy.
For one thing, Bishop had a sub-par season, going 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 32 games with the Lightning. For another thing, he didn’t play overly well for the Kings, going 2-3 with a 2.49 goals-against average and a .900 save percentage in seven appearances.
But more importantly, term was very important to Bishop. The Stars offered him a long-term, front-loaded deal with a no-movement clause throughout the deal and a modified no-trade clause in the final three years.
Bishop’s salary per year will be as follows: $7 million in year one, $6.5 million in year two, $5.5 million in year three and $3.5 million in each of the final three years of the deal.
Ben Bishop contract details: $7 M, $6.5 M, $5.5 M, $3.5 M, $3.5 M, $3.5 M; and NMC throughout, modified NTC last 3 years
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 12, 2017
Significantly, the structure of the deal leaves room for the Stars to sign star forward Tyler Seguin to an extension when he becomes an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2019-2020 season.
Also, Bishop gets to join a talented team in desperate need of goaltending.
The Stars recently hired Ken Hitchcock to take over bench duties, and Hitch is known to employ a goalie-friendly defensive scheme. This could do wonders for a top-heavy Dallas team with young defensemen in need of structure.
Additionally, Bishop has ties to Dallas. He played his senior season with the Texas Tornado and graduated from Frisco High School in 2005. Going to a familiar place can often be of comfort to an NHL player, especially one who has bounced around in his career.
So excited to be in my old stomping ground's! Last time I lived there Frisco only had one high school!! #FriscoHighgrad
— Ben Bishop (@Benbishop30) May 12, 2017
But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Bishop wants to win now. He believes he is in his prime, and he believes the Stars are primed to contend for the Stanley Cup now.
“I’m happy with the team, I’m excited about what we can do, and I wanted to get it done,” Bishop said after his rights were traded to the Stars. “I think this is a good fit and I’m ready to go right now.”
This made the contract talks pretty simple for both sides.
“Ben’s commitment to what we are building in Dallas, and his passion for wanting to be a part of it, was evident during the negotiating process,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said.
Dallas now has three starting goalies on the roster occupying a little more than $15 million in cap space. That being said, it’s likely the team will buy out the final year of Antti Niemi’s contract, which comes with a $4.5 million cap hit (unless he can be moved or gets taken in the Las Vegas expansion draft). It appears as though Kari Lehtonen and the final year of his contract at a $5.9 million cap hit will stay as he and Bishop play in tandem.
This doesn’t seem to be a problem for Bishop, though, who is eager to get started.
“I just like everything that I see there,” he said. “I honestly can’t wait to get down there and start working out and then get the season started. I’m ready to go.”
Couldn't be more excited to be part of the Dallas organization for the next six years!! Can't wait to get started!
— Ben Bishop (@Benbishop30) May 12, 2017
Bishop is 148-80-25 with a 2.32 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in 270 career regular-season games as a member of the Blues, Senators, Lightning and Kings. He is 21-13 with a 2.09 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in 36 career postseason starts with the Lightning. He led the Lightning to two Conference Finals appearances (2015,2016) and one Stanley Cup appearance (2015).
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