Ben Bishop

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Bolts ‘very interested’ in extending Budaj

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Tampa Bay needs a backup for Andrei Vasilevskiy next season, and it might already have one in house.

Peter Budaj, acquired at the deadline in the Ben Bishop-to-Los Angeles trade, played well enough down the stretch to pique the interest of Bolts GM Steve Yzerman.

“We were very please with the finish to the season Peter had,” Yzerman said on Thursday, in an interview with WDAE 620 radio. “We’d very much be interested in bringing him back.”

Budaj, 34, was one of the biggest surprises in the league last year. He was originally signed to be the Kings’ No. 3 netminder, but ascended to the starting job after an injury to Jonathan Quick and ineffective play from Jeff Zatkoff.

It was a noteworthy development for a guy that played exactly one game during the ’15-16 campaign, and was out of the NHL entirely the year prior. Budaj responded by going 30-21-3 this season, with a .915 save percentage and 2.18 GAA — most of it with the Kings.

After joining the Bolts, he started four times and won three games as the club made a frenetic late push for a playoff spot.

This summer’s goalie market is expected to be crazy — it’s been active already, and it’s only the third week in May — so the Bolts might be smart to lock Budaj in now, rather than see how free agency unfolds. He’s coming off a one-year, $600,000 deal, so he could probably be retained on the cheap. And if he struggles, there’s always Kristers Gudlevskis in the system.

Gudlevskis, 24, has appeared in three career games with the Bolts, spending extensive time in the American League. He’s currently a restricted free agent.

Stars GM has talked about trading third overall draft pick

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The Dallas Stars are in go-for-it mode, and their general manager is willing to trade the third overall pick in the 2017 draft to give them a boost.

“I have talked to other teams already about possibly moving that pick, getting an established player back,” Jim Nill told SiriusXM’s NHL Network Radio, per NHL.com. “It gives us lot of options. I think this will heat up more as we go.”

The Stars were one of the three big winners in the draft lottery, moving up to the No. 3 spot after finishing 24th overall during the regular season.

And while it’s a near certainty that Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier will be selected with the first two picks, it’s wide open after that.

“Probably a group of another 10 players, and that’s when it comes down to team’s personal preference,” Nill said. “Are you looking for a big strong centerman? Are you looking for a scoring winger? Are you looking for a power forward? There is lot of different options there.”

The Stars — with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin right in their primes, and Jason Spezza turning 34 next month — do need to make a run at the Stanley Cup soon. They’ve already made a couple of big moves this offseason, hiring Ken Hitchcock to be their new head coach and signing goalie Ben Bishop to a six-year deal.

If there’s a weakness on the Dallas roster, it’s probably the blue line. The Stars lost veteran defenders Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers last summer, and head coach Lindy Ruff spent much of 2016-17 scratching various defensemen, including new addition Dan Hamhuis.

What exactly happened between Calgary and Ben Bishop?

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Last summer, Ben Bishop was sure he was getting dealt to the Flames.

So sure, in fact, that he was reportedly discussing a contract extension with Calgary, before GM Brad Treliving flipped the script and traded for Brian Elliott at the draft.

Bishop then muddled through a difficult season that started in Tampa Bay and ended in Los Angeles. When the offseason rolled around, Calgary once again expressed interest. But this time, it was Bishop who flipped the script, agreeing to a trade to Dallas before signing a six-year, $29.5 million deal.

In the aftermath, Sportsnet reported Bishop had list of teams he wouldn’t accept a trade to.

Calgary was on it.

At this time, it feels prudent to unpack a few things:

• Per the Kelowna Daily Courier, Treliving made three different attempts to get Bishop over the last 11 months. The first was, as mentioned above, at last year’s draft. The second was reportedly prior to this year’s trade deadline, before Bolts GM Steve Yzerman consummated the deal with L.A. And the third, obviously, was prior to Bishop getting dealt to the Stars.

• Treliving shot down the Courier report this week, in speaking with the Calgary Sun. “I’ve heard I’ve tried to get him three or four times,” Treliving said. “Which isn’t correct.”

• Treliving continued discussing the Bishop situation, and rather candidly. Read into this what you will.

“We’re looking at goaltending, so it’s natural we’d be poking around. Did we look at it as an option? Yes.

“But the assumption we can make is that for the American guy who played minor league hockey in Texas coming to Calgary was probably not choice No. 1.

“And if he was, it was probably for a long time for a lot of dough.”

• It’s fair to suggest “a long time for a lot of dough” was the holdup last summer, given the Flames and Bishop talked contract before Treliving made the move for Elliott (who had one year left, at an affordable $2.5 million). It’s also possible Treliving negotiated, didn’t like how things were shaping up, and took the calculated risk of holding off on Bishop for a year to circle back in free agency.

• But was that too big a risk? In the aftermath, it’s become clear Bishop didn’t just think there was a possibility of getting traded. He thought he’d become a Flame.

“I thought the deal was done and whatnot,” he told Sportsnet’s Fan 590. “Obviously, it wasn’t. They went out and got Elliott.”

Eleven months later, Bishop wouldn’t even put Calgary on his trade list. So yeah.

In the end, it feels like both parties traveled an awful long way to get back where they started. The Flames, like last summer, are still on the hunt for a No. 1 netminder. Bishop, meanwhile, is in Dallas, which is where he says he wanted to be in the first place.

Related: Bishop says health not an issue — important, since he’s signed through 2023

Hurricanes, Stars get early jump on NHL goalie carousel

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When the Carolina Hurricanes traded a third-round pick to Chicago for the rights to Scott Darling, the NHL’s goaltender carousel started spinning.

After Carolina signed Darling to a $16.6 million, four-year deal, the Dallas Stars sent a fourth-round pick to Los Angeles for the rights to Ben Bishop and signed the 6-foot-7 former Lightning starter for $29.5 million over six years. Carolina and Dallas were willing to give up picks to get the jump on what Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis called an interesting offseason to shop for a goalie.

“There’s two different paths you can look at: One is certainly who’s going to be available on July 1 and what it may take to get them in terms of years and in terms of salary, and then the other option is you’re looking at who might be available in terms of teams not wanting to lose a goaltender in expansion and willing to make a trade and what it costs you to get that player,” Francis said. “When we looked at everything and studied things, we thought this was the best viable option for us.”

It looks brilliant now ahead of a goalie shuffle that expected to happen over the next several weeks leading up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft June 21, the actual draft a few days later and the start of free agency July 1. The Golden Knights, Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers and perhaps even the Winnipeg Jets and Colorado Avalanche are in the market, with Pittsburgh veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, Washington backup Philipp Grubauer and a handful of others in the mix to fill vacancies.

Fleury led the Penguins to the Eastern Conference final but could still be traded with Matt Murray entrenched as the goalie of the future, and his value has never been higher. Fleury wields power with his no-movement clause that could let him choose his destination.

Read more: Fleury could be good option for Flames … or even Flyers

Grubauer said he has no choice where he goes, but as a restricted free agent he does have some control and could be headed to Vegas. The Golden Knights will get 48 hours to negotiate with any unrestricted or restricted free agents left unprotected for the expansion draft, and the 25-year-old German had a 2.05 goals-against average and .926 save percentage in 24 games this season and is widely considered ready to be a starter.

“He’s an outstanding goalie,” Capitals starter Braden Holtby said. “What I think I’ve seen from him the last year especially, his talent is NHL talent, but a lot of guys have that. His mental game, his mental prep – every game he was in he was never out of it mentally. He was always sharp and that shows.”

Grubauer and Darling could follow the path of understudies-turned-starters blazed by Edmonton’s Cam Talbot, who has thrived since backing up Henrik Lundqvist with the Rangers, and San Jose’s Martin Jones, who took the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after being Jonathan Quick‘s No. 2 in Los Angeles. Much like Grubauer, the 28-year-old Darling has improved the mental side of his game as Corey Crawford‘s backup with the Blackhawks and believes he has the stuff to start.

“I’m confident because I’m excited about it and I’m going to do everything in my power to learn how to be the best starter I can be,” said Darling, who’s 6-foot-6 and had a .924 save percentage last season. “I have a good network of goalie friends that I’m going to be picking their brains and asking for help and just trying to do everything that I can do to be successful in that role.”

Current Rangers backup Antti Raanta, who has a year left on his deal at a bargain-basement $1 million salary-cap hit, has shown evidence he can be successful too and has been speculated as a Vegas option. So have Grubauer and Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth because of close ties to GM George McPhee and goalie coach Dave Prior.

“There’s a lot of other guys on the market too that could possibly go out there, so it’s not just me,” Grubauer said. “George drafted me, so they know what they probably get and with other guys they probably not know as much. I don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Vegas’ decisions in goal could have as much of a domino effect as Carolina getting Darling and Dallas locking up Bishop. The Flames made the playoffs with the tandem of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, now pending free agents, and could go young with prospect Jon Gilles, look at Fleury or move in another direction to improve on their 19th-ranked save percentage.

Winnipeg has youngsters Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson and Colorado has Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard but could shake things up in net to speed up the process of returning to playoff contention. The Flyers will likely move on from the Neuvirth-Steve Mason combo, but former goaltender and now GM Ron Hextall seems fine patching things up until one of Philadelphia’s top prospects (Carter Hart, Alex Lyon or Felix Sandstrom) is ready for the NHL.

“We do have kids coming, and I think everybody knows it,” Hextall said.

 

Related: Nill thinks Niemi or Lehtonen could be ‘intriguing’ for some teams

Nill thinks Niemi or Lehtonen could be ‘intriguing’ for some teams

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Jim Nill isn’t worried that he’s suddenly got three goalies under contract for a combined cap hit north of $15 million.

The Dallas Stars’ general manager spoke to Yahoo Sports after locking up Ben Bishop for six years, and Nill doesn’t necessarily think he’ll have to buy out Antti Niemi ($4.5 million cap hit) or Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million).

“I’ve got two goalies that only have one year left,” said Nill. “That’s intriguing for teams.”

And if no teams bite, will one be bought out?

“If necessary, yeah,” said Nill. “I’m not worried about that. We’re in a great cap position.”

It’s expected that Niemi will be the one to get bought out, if it gets to that. That would leave the Stars with over $12 million in cap space allocated to goalies next season.

Related: Is Niemi done in Dallas?