By leaning on Ben Bishop even as he fought through a groin tear, the Tampa Bay Lightning made it clear that the big netminder is their goalie of the present. That said, many wondered if we were getting a glimpse of the future when Andrei Vasilevskiy made his presence felt in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Actually, it seems almost inevitable that Vasilevskiy will be a part of that future; the real question is whether he’ll end up being the top guy over Bishop.
No reason to rush
With Bishop’s recent run and Vasilevskiy’s status as a first-rounder, these questions seem reasonable. That said, it’s clear just how hasty many of us are being.
GM Steve Yzerman admitted that the franchise will need to choose at some point, but as he told the Tampa Bay Times, it seems like they’ll enjoy the best of both worlds in the meantime.
“At some point we’ll have to make a decision, but not yet,” Yzerman said. “Whether that’s one year or two years from now, I don’t know. But I know we’ve got Bish, who has proven to be one of the top starters in the league, and we’ve got a really talented young guy.”
As usual, Stevie Y is smart when he opts to “enjoy it for a year or two.” Considering how unpredictable goaltenders can be, why box yourself into a corner prematurely?
A fork in the road (eventually)
Both goalies’ contracts run through 2016-17; Bishop, 28, would be eligible to become an unrestricted free agent while Vasilevskiy, 20, would be an RFA.
The Lightning could see any number of scenarios play out. After a season or more, it might be determined that Bishop’s $5.95 million cap hit will end up being too rich for Yzerman’s taste, at least with key players needing new deals. Conversely, the Bolts may see enough of Vasilevskiy to decide that he’s not quite ready to carry the No. 1 mantle in 2017-18 and beyond.
While “goalie controversies” can lead to headaches, it’s better to have two viable options than none (something Lightning fans have quite a bit of experience with, actually).