OTTAWA – Bryan Murray wasted little time finding help in goal for the Ottawa Senators.
The Senators acquired goaltender Ben Bishop Sunday from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2013 draft.
There had been speculation the Senators would seek help at that position following Craig Anderson’s hand injury earlier this week. Anderson is out indefinitely after cutting a tendon in the small finger on his stick hand while making a meal at home.
It prompted Murray to add one of the top performers in the American Hockey League this season.
“We had talked about a depth goaltender or a goaltender since we didn’t have enough depth at that position,” he said. “Ben is a five-year pro and has had a real growth in his game the last couple of years, (Senators goaltending coach) Rick Wamsley had worked with him for two years and knows him quite well as a person.
“We think this man is ready to play in the NHL at some point here, whether he plays right away or not we’ll determine that as we go forward.”
The Senators ensured that they’d get time to evaluate Bishop by negotiating a contract extension with him as part of the trade. The sides agreed to terms on a $650,000, one-year deal that is expected to be signed once Bishop arrives in Ottawa.
It was the only move made Sunday with the NHL’s trade deadline looming at 3 p.m. ET on Monday. Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash remained the biggest name available on the market, but with each passing hour it was looking less and less likely that he would find a new home.
Nash scored a short-handed goal during a 4-2 Blue Jackets loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon—a game he would likely have sat out if a trade was imminent. Afterwards, he told reporters that he didn’t view it as his final game with the franchise.
“It’s been a great time living in Columbus,” said Nash. “I’m a Blue Jacket today and we’re going to do everything we can to move forward as a team. Like I said the other day, these fans deserve a winning team. They’re the ones that have been the most patient.”
General managers have had to be patient in recent weeks while only a handful of trades were completed. There are very few teams out of the playoff chase and even some of those that are, like the Carolina Hurricanes, chose not to become major sellers.
Rather than trading veterans Tim Gleason and Tuomo Ruutu to contenders at the deadline, the Hurricanes instead signed both players to a contract extension.
“It’s hard to replace them,” Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said Sunday. “That’s why you see a different pattern here this year, where teams like us with our two guys are signing their players and keeping them instead of trading them for draft picks.”
It could result in another slow deadline day. There were just 16 trades involving 35 players last year—the lowest total since 2000.
Ottawa got a jump on the action and ensured that it would address its biggest need. Neither Murray nor Senators coach Paul MacLean would divulge when Bishop would see his first action with the team.
“I’ll talk to the coaches obviously after the game (Sunday) and see where we put him,” said Murray. “Do we play him a couple games in Binghamton or do we give him a game here? That’s under review for discussion at this point.”
The 25-year-old Bishop has posted impressive numbers with the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen this season, registering a 24-14-0 record with a 2.26 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. He also has a league-leading six shutouts.
At six foot seven, Bishop is the tallest goalie in the NHL. Over his career, he’s made 13 NHL appearances for the Blues but found himself behind Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott in the rotation this season.
Bishop’s signing adds some much-needed goaltending depth to the Senators organization. There were no other options for the team, which had either regular backup Alex Auld or Robin Lehner, perceived to be Ottawa’s goalie of the future.
Bishop admitted he had heard the trade rumours and told the organization in a phone interview that he was thrilled to be joining the Senators.
“Ottawa’s a great hockey city and it’s a great, fresh start for me,” he said. “I’m really excited. Words cannot describe how excited I am right now.”
Bishop’s signing will create a battle next season for the role of Anderson’s backup.
“Now we have competition,” said Murray. “Now performance will dictate who will be that person. That’s the way I feel about it. I think we need that challenge within.
“Robin’s had a tougher year than we thought he might have down there so now we’re saying we have to be ready no matter what happens.”
—With files from hockey writer Chris Johnston in Toronto.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated Robin Lehner was injured.