TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Tampa Bay Lightning are busy trying to get ready for Friday's NHL Draft, and rumors are flying about the fate of two of their top players, Ben Bishop and Steven Stamkos.
Reports out of Canada say the Bolts are in discussion with the Calgary Flames to send Bishop north. That would leave Andrei Vasilevskiy as the team's primary goalie.
"We did see how well Vasilevskiy was able to pick up and continue the success that Bishop had had," FOX 13's Merissa Lynn offered during an online Lightning chat this morning. "Ben is a great guy, a great person, a great athlete, a great leader. But you have to start forward-thinking about where this team can go -- and this team can go far with a guy like Andrei Vasilevskiy."
If the Bolts want to get something out of Bishop, they have a year to do it. In next year's expansion draft, every team in the NHL will only be able to protect one goalie.
"You're going to want to protect Andre Vasilevskiy, the young guy. He's just 21 years old, going to be around for a long time. He proved himself in this year's playoffs. So do you lose Bishop now and get something in return or do you lose him in the expansion draft? I think the better move is to do it now," FOX 13's Kevin O'Donnell suggested. "I know it’s kind of like taking off a Band-Aid; it’s going to hurt. I know he's a fan favorite right now."
The fate of the Lightning's top player, Steven Stamkos, is also on the table. Team GM Steve Yzerman has repeatedly insisted that he wants to resign Stammer to a lifetime deal that's said to average $8.5-million per year. But the Bolts' center can start negotiations with other teams this Saturday and salaries on the open market could go as high as $10-million or $11-million.
It will ultimately be up to Stamkos to decide if he wants money or location.
"Time and time again, he's said to us, the media, that there's no place he wants to play except Tampa Bay," Lynn continued.
If Bishop and Stamkos join the ranks of former teammates like Vinny Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, it's possioble that the team could look different when they hit the ice this fall. But O'Donnell says it would actually help keep the core group of talent together.
"Everyone in the organization wants Stamkos to stay, but they have so many potential free agents that are coming up between this year and next year, that if they pay Stamkos more than $8.5-million, they can't get the rest of the players under contract," he added.
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