With the freak injury to Craig Anderson, Ottawa’s goalie depth was immediately questioned. Would Alex Auld be able to hold the fort? Would Robin Lehner be able to bounce back from what has been a terrible AHL season for him? With the trade deadline looming, Bryan Murray had a decision to make. He was offered Dwayne Roloson from the Tampa Bay Lightning, but after the 8 goal pounding he took yesterday Murray probably wanted no piece of him. Murray also mentioned that any players he planned on trading for would likely remain a part of the team for years to come (i.e. no rentals). The end result was the acquisition of goaltender Ben Bishop from the St. Louis Blues for Ottawa’s 2nd round pick in 2013.
The big question is, was this a reaction trade after the goaltending Ottawa received from Auld in yesterday’s 5-3 loss to the Bruins? I don’t believe so. In fact, Murray probably made this trade to improve Ottawa’s lack of goaltending depth, as their only real goaltending prospect is Robin Lehner. Ben Bishop is a giant at 6’7″ and is one of the best goaltenders in the AHL this season with a GAA of 2.26 and SV% of .928 (which is the top SV% in the league). He’s also 25 years of age, which puts him right in the middle in terms of age with Ottawa’s top two goaltenders, Anderson at 30 and Lehner at 20. This is good as it means if everything goes to plan, Bishop will likely be the goaltending partner for both for approximately the next decade. They can run with him and Anderson until Anderson’s contract expires at which point Lehner could be brought up to battle Bishop for the starting role.
Bishop has agreed to sign a 1 year 1 way deal for next season at a very reasonable $650,000. This has some people questioning the trade as many expected Lehner to be the backup next season. I think it was a great move by the organization. If Bishop is an NHL ready goaltender, Lehner will have to up his game to crack the NHL and that’s where the beauty of Bishop’s contract comes in. It is a 1 way meaning he can’t be sent to the AHL without passing through waivers. However, the low cap hit allows the Sens to keep him as a healthy scratch if Lehner manages to outplay Bishop for the backup position next season.
In my opinion this was a great return for a 2nd round pick. The Sens have managed to acquire a goaltender who has already proven himself in the AHL. There’s no guarantee Ottawa could have found any goaltender better in the draft. It also provides continuous competition for prospect Robin Lehner. You would have to think Toronto may regret not picking him up if he can maintain his AHL numbers in the NHL. An interesting aspect of this trade is that it would never have happened had ex-Senator Brian Elliott struggled in St. Louis. Instead Elliott became an All-Star, and with Jaroslav Halak in the goalie rotation there just wasn’t any room for the upcoming UFA Ben Bishop on the Blues. Only time will tell how well this trade will work out for the Sens, but for the moment it looks like a solid trade for the Sens.