Next year promises to be an interesting one in goal for Tampa Bay.
The Lightning will go into 2014-15 with Vezina finalist Ben Bishop as the unquestioned No. 1 — assuming he sufficiently recovers from wrist surgery, of course — but with some questions about who’ll play behind Bishop, and with their AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
“We’ve got to sort out our goaltending,” GM Steve Yzerman said this week, per the Tampa Tribune.
Right now, the mix includes backup Anders Lindback (a pending RFA), Latvian Olympic hero Kristers Gudlevskis (signed through 2016), ’12 first-rounder Andrei Vasilevskiy (who just inked his entry-level deal) and University of Minnesota’s Adam Wilcox (a Mike Richter Award nominee this year as the NCAA’s top netminder).
The only two under contract for next year are Gudlevskis and Vasilevskiy; Lindback might’ve played his way out of town with a sub-par effort against Montreal in the playoffs and Wilcox, who just wrapped his sophomore campaign with the Gophers, could return for his junior year.
Here’s more, from the Tribune:
The Lightning could use either Vasilevskiy or Gudlevskis as Bishop’s backup. Vasilevskiy certainly has been impressive playing against men in the KHL. And Yzerman said that despite the small sample size, Gudleveskis, 21, the first goalie to play in the ECHL, AHL, NHL and Olympics in the same season, showed enough to at least get into the conversation as a possible No. 2.
Don’t discount the possibility of Yzerman using one of his goaltending chips in trade. In fact, Gudlevskis might be trade bait if the team wants Vasilevskiy as Bishop’s backup and Wilcox under contract.
It’ll be interesting to see what Tampa does behind Bishop for the No. 2 gig. While the NHL’s tallest netminder enjoyed a breakthrough campaign this year, there are still some concerns moving forward: 1) Prior to this year, Bishop never played in more than 22 games in a single season; 2) His heavy workload this season seemed to wear him down physically as, in addition to the wrist problem, Bishop also suffered a dislocated elbow that ruled him out for the playoffs.
As such, Yzerman might consider bringing a more veteran presence in to stabilize things should Bishop not produce at a similar clip. The problem there, of course, is it would add another goalie to what’s already a crowded situation in Tampa Bay.