The Blues and Lightning both have major free agents to worry about this off-season in Kevin Shattenkirk and Ben Bishop. But would the two teams consider simply flipping their UFAs-to-be?
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop and St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk could be the top players available in next summer’s unrestricted free agent market. As a result, they’ve frequently surfaced in this season’s rumor mill.
Of the two, the 30-year-old Bishop is considered the most likely to be moved before the March 1 trade deadline. The Lightning are struggling, in need of another top-four defenseman and poised to hand the starting goalie role to Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Earlier this season, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman hinted at retaining Bishop this season for one more run at the Stanley Cup. The club’s current difficulties, however, could change his mind.
Shattenkirk, 27, is less likely to be moved. Though he was a hot topic of trade chatter last summer, it’s died down since this season began. In the past, Blues GM Doug Armstrong was reluctant to trade his pending UFAs. As long as he feels Shattenkirk can help the Blues’ championship hopes this season, the puck-moving rearguard won’t be dealt.
But what about the possibility of a Bishop-for-Shattenkirk swap by the trade deadline? In a recent piece on next summer’s top UFAs, ESPN.com’s Craig Custance quoted a source wondering who could say no to such a deal.
Yzerman would probably agree to that deal, as Shattenkirk would address his blueline needs. Despite Bishop’s struggles this season, he’s a former Vezina Trophy finalist who carried the Bolts to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Armstrong, however, seems invested in young Jake Allen as his starting goalie this season. Unless Allen’s game goes into a tailspin in the coming weeks, there’s no reason for Armstrong to make that swap.
KINGS CONTINUE TO WATCH GOALIE MARKET
Last Wednesday, Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi said starting goalie Jonathan Quick won’t return to action until mid-February. Quick, 30, remains sidelined by a groin injury suffered in the Kings’ season opener.
Lombardi told Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times he doesn’t intend to “throw the kitchen sink” at another club in hopes of acquiring a top starter. However, the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports the Kings GM is still shopping for a netminder.
Earlier this season, the Kings were linked to former Winnipeg Jets starter Ondrej Pavelec, who’s now toiling with the Jets’ AHL affiliate. However, Garrioch claims the two clubs haven’t talked about the 30-year-old Pavelec since the NHL GMs meetings in Toronto last month. He also claims the Kings had some interest in Ottawa Senators former backup Andrew Hammond. The decline in Hammond’s game, however, likely means he’s no longer under consideration.
Garrioch notes the Kings could pursue Pittsburgh Penguins veteran Marc-Andre Fleury. Because the Pens can only protect one goalie in next June’s expansion draft, it’s assumed they’ll shop the 32-year-old Fleury before the trade deadline. Garrioch acknowledges Fleury, who’s under contract through 2018-19 at a cap hit of $5.75 million, isn’t a viable short-term option.
With Quick due back later this season, the Kings can’t afford to take on another expensive netminder. While he’s on long-term injury reserve, they can exceed the $73-million salary-cap ceiling by over $5 million on a replacement goalie. However, they must become cap compliant when Quick returns to action in February.
Since Quick’s injury, Lombardi and the Kings are making do with backup Jeff Zatkoff and call-up Peter Budaj. Until a more affordable short-term option appears in the trade market, expect the Kings to stick with their current tandem until Quick’s return.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.