Tampa Bay Lightning Report: Ben Bishop Wants To Stay With Team

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop wants to remain here in the Bolts Nation; however, he also wants the opportunity to really play.

The 2016-17 season has been a tumultuous one for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Injuries have played a huge role in the downward spiral the Lightning has been on this season, but there are also a number of other things in play which have contributed, and not in a good way, to the current state of the team. ‘

One of the things which have caused quite a bit of discord among the fans this season is the impending NHL Expansion Draft. Despite what many here in the Bolts Nation would hope, there is a very real possibility a couple of the Lightning’s better players may not remain on the team next season.

There have been a lot of names tossed around in this rather depressing discussion, but none quite as prevalent as Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Unfortunately, there are more factors playing into this particular rumor than just the NHL Expansion Draft.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

As most Lightning fans know by now, Ben Bishop is in the final year of his contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the conclusion of the season, Bishop will become an Unrestricted Free Agent.

In other words, even if Bishop makes it through the Expansion Draft, the team’s current cap issues could prove to be a determining factor in his future with the Tampa Bay Lightning. As one could easily imagine, this makes for some tough decisions on the horizon for the Bolts.

As the NHL Trade Deadline approaches, which is currently just 18 days away for those of you keeping track, the pressure continues to mount and Lightning fans are left to wonder what the fate of one of their favorite players will be once the Deadline passes.

While everyone has focused in on what the team will do and what kind of moves could be made, very few people have stopped to ask one very important question. What does Ben Bishop think about the current situation? Has anyone, even for one second, stopped to ask whether or not he wants to leave Tampa Bay?

Well, it seems Lightning fans finally have an answer to this question. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t quite as black and white as some would imagine. According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Ben Bishop would very much like to remain a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. At the same time, this hinges on one very important condition.

"“Obviously we have a great team, a great organization and great place to play,” Bishop told Smith. “Obviously the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. You want to win where you are. You don’t really think about next year, or anything but next game. But we’ll see where it takes us. That’s my feeling. But at the same time, I want to play, too.”"

If you ask us, this sounds like a bit of a stab at Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper. Cooper has never once admitted there is a starting and a backup goaltender her in the Bolts Nation. Coach Cooper has always referred to Bishop and his fellow goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy as “1a” and “1b.”

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a coach in the National Hockey League who gives their backup goaltender just as many games as the starting goaltender for nothing more than to “give the backup games.” It’s a whole different situation when your starting goaltender is injured or your starting goaltender has had a string of bad luck, but to give a goaltender split time for no other reason than to “give him games” is ludicrous.

So…let’s fast forward a little bit to where we find ourselves at the current time. The Tampa Bay Lightning is coming off a spectacular 5-0 shutout victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at the Amalie Arena.

Lightning netminder Ben Bishop posted his first shutout of the season in the aforementioned victory. Bishop bailed the team out at many different points in the game and played what could be viewed as one of the most consistent games of the season. Where is he today as the Bolts prepare to take on the Minnesota Wild? The bench, that’s where.

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Now, I will concede the fact the Lightning are facing a back-to-back series and there is always the possibility of the starting goaltender sitting one of those games for nothing more than to not burn him out. At the same time, when a goaltender is as hot as Bishop was on Tuesday night against the Kings, you don’t simply sit them and allow the fire to fizzle out. You play them and see where this newfound passion takes them.

No matter which way you want to slice this, Ben Bishop has been the best thing to happen to the Tampa Bay Lightning since the likes of goaltender Dwayne Roloson and the great “Bulin Wall” Nikolai Khabibulin. Bishop has carried the weight of the team on his back for many seasons now.

Had a lesser goaltender been in his place, many of the Lightning’s offensive and defensive woes would’ve been laid out on the ice for all to see. The difference is, Bishop has been good enough to cover a lot of this up. One could easily imagine all the trade talk, and the simple fact of the matter the team forgot how to hockey for a good portion of the season has been wearing on Bishop.

There is no reason Ben Bishop has to want to leave the team. First and foremost, he has built a life here. In the five seasons he has been here, he’s developed relationships (both personal and professional), he likes the guys he takes the ice with, and he has a desire to win with the team as it is now. Unfortunately, this could all go by the wayside if an errant decision by the coaching staff sees Bishop with too much time on the bench.

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Let’s face it, athletes are competitive people. Absolutely no one wants to sit on the sidelines as their team loses a game. They want to get in on the action and do everything they can to prevent the team from losing. At the same time, no one wants to sit on the sidelines and watch as the team they helped elevate goes to the big game while they sit idly by and watch. It’s simply not fair.

Ben Bishop has paid his dues. Bishop has always been there when the team has needed him the most and has continued to play to the best of his ability (even when injured) to make sure the team achieved the highest level of success they possibly could. Bishop has earned his right to be the starter.

This has absolutely nothing to do with Andrei Vasilevskiy, his talent, or his ability (or lack thereof) to play at the highest levels of the game. This is plain and simple fact.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot of tough decisions facing them in the near future. Are the Bolts willing to give up on one of the most solid goaltenders they’ve had since their Stanley Cup season in 2004 in for someone on their third season in the NHL?

If Ben Bishop is somehow with the Tampa Bay Lightning past the NHL Trade Deadline and the NHL Expansion Draft, do things stay the way they are and have Bishop and Vasilevskiy split the load down the middle? Judging by the comments he’s made, Bishop has no intentions of riding the bench.

If the team continues to treat him the way he’s been treated thus far, we may not have to worry about a trade. Once the season comes to a close, Bishop is free to talk to any of the other teams in the National Hockey League.

If a team is out there who is willing to give Bishop the time he deserves, we may very well lose our most solid netminder without a single thing in return. This, my friends, is unacceptable.

We don’t know about you, but we’d love to see Bishop remain here in the Bolts Nation for at least a few more seasons. If it comes down to a cap issue, it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe Bishop would stay for less money in order to remain on the team.

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If players like Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, and Alex Killorn can do it, there’s absolutely nothing holding Bishop back from a similar deal. Unfortunately, only time will tell how this story will play out.