Jim Nill’s Genius Trade

The Dallas Stars have added to their opportunistic and lopsided trades with the acquisition of goaltender Ben Bishop’s rights from the L.A. Kings in exchange for a previously acquired fourth round pick (Montreal’s) in the 2017 NHL Draft. Ben Bishop was traded earlier this year by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Trade Deadline to the Los Angeles Kings. Having previously acquired Jason Spezza from Ottawa and Tyler Seguin from Boston, Dallas Stars G.M. Jim Nill can tap himself on the back again with this one, as he essentially gave up the extra pick he received in the Benn-Pateryn trade for a chance at an established, Vezina nominated, number 1 goalie. The fact that former L.A. Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi traded Peter Budaj, Erik Cernak and a seventh round pick for the pending UFA goalie was even more puzzling, as the Kings already had a returning Jonathan Quick in the lineup and ultimately missed the playoffs. In the end, that is why Lombardi is the former G.M. of the L.A. Kings, as his trading record over the last five years pales in comparison to that of Dallas’ Jim Nill.

Jim Nill has the better part of two months to convince Ben Bishop to sign long-term and finally end the apparent goalie controversy that has plagued this team since the signing of Anti Niemi in 2015. The most perplexing aspect of that signing was the fact that Niemi was signed whilst Kari Lethonen was also under a long-term contract.  Since Niemi signed his 3 year/$13.5 million deal, fans of the Stars have never really known who the team’s number goalie has been, often seeing a goalie protect the cage on the basis of who was hot at that moment. During the 2016-2017 season, both Anti Niemi and Kari Lethonen combined for an abysmal .897 save percentage, a 2.93 Goals Against Average and 34 wins in 82 games. Needless to say, that Dallas was left without any legitimate options for a true number 1 goalie within their system. Enter Ben Bishop.

Bishop’s stats in Tampa Bay over the last few years averaged out to a .923 save percentage, a 2.35 Goal’s Against and an average of 36 wins over 60 game span. His performances would be a significant upgrade over the aging Kari Lethonen and the enigmatic Anti Niemi. Should the asking price be anything south of $7 million, I tip my hat off to Jim Nill for this piece of wizardry.

Salary Cap Implications

Although it’s nice and dandy to have acquired such a player, how will Nill fit him and his two current goaltenders under the cap? The Vegas Golden Knights can surely come in and be a player in this situation, as two outcomes can possibly arise. Scenario one would have Dallas and Bishop wait until after the expansion draft to sign his extension, forcing Dallas to protect one of Lethonen and Niemi and having the other realistically winding up in the Sin City come 2017-2018 puck drop. Scenario two would have Dallas flipping a pick over to Vegas in order for them to take one of their goalies off their hands. With Lethonen’s $5.9 million cap hit on the books until the end of next season, he would be the logical choice to leave unprotected. A third option could simply be an old-fashioned with another team desperate for goaltending like the Calgary Flames or even the Winnipeg Jets.

In the end however, this is only a successful gamble if Bishop does indeed sign with the Stars. In the case that Bishop does reach free agency, then Nill will have to look at other free agents like Jaroslav Halak or trade targets like current playoff hero Marc-André Fleury. This is certainly a story to keep an eye out for going forward, as this can certainly propel Dallas back into the playoff conversation come the 2017-2018.