What does the Brian Elliot signing mean for Ben Bishop?
If we go back to training camp, it was down to Elliot and Bishop to back up Jaroslav Halak. Doug Armstrong said if it was a tie, Elliot had the edge because of his experience. Bishop didin’t blow away Blues management and he was sent down to Peoria where he’s become an AHL All-Star.
This signing is great on several levels. It secures one of, if not the best, tandem in the NHL. No other duo has compiled as many shutouts as Halak and Elliot (8). Elliot owns six of those eight shutouts and has carried the load while Halak was still grieving over his good friend, Pavel Demitra’s untimely passing. As a reward, Elliot was given his extension after he came into the organization with an $800,000 two way contract and has played his way to Ottawa for the All-Star game. The other is should the Blues decide to move a goaltender on the roster, Elliot’s contract is manageable enough that teams will take a good hard look. Jaro’s contract is much larger and with the salary cap, it can be difficult to move, but not impossible. (Tomas Kaberle is a good example)
It appears that Halak and Elliot are good for each other. They push each other to play better and back it up with great play of their own. I’m not sure there’s a more fierce competition in the league. These guys throw shutouts at each other as if it’s a dare to top each other. I can’t remember a better goaltending situation in Blues history since Jacques Plante came over in the expansion draft. (Sorry John Davidson)
Halak and Elliot both have two years together and both contracts will conclude at the same time, so what happens to the guys that Blues fans have been waiting to see for several years, Ben Bishop and Jake Allen?
This is where things get kinda dicey.
First off, lets look at goalies in general and their peak years.
Most goalies don’t even start to reach their peak until their late 20′s and most don’t really become established until their 30′s. The Blues gave up two prospects because Jaroslav Halak was 26 and was entering his peak years. The four year contract he signed basically gave the Blues a four year window to see if he is the franchise goaltender.
Ben Bishop, a St. Louis guy, has been touted as the second coming of Curtis Joseph/Jacques Plant, right now is in limbo. He’s TOO good to keep in the AHL, but there isn’t a roster spot for him on the Blues. Obviously this would lead to trade speculation and with good reason. One thing that’s been written about here is goal scoring. The Blues rack up a TON of shots, but usually come up empty handed and we can debate why that is until we’re blue in the face. (sorry for that really horrible pun)
John Davidson made a statement a few years ago to the effect of prospects are there to make the team better, either through making the team or through trade, but there just isn’t room for all of them.
Who could be looking for a possible number one goaltender? There’s a few candidates and one that might surprise you. (I’m not speculating what will come back mostly because we’re dealing with a minor league player and I’m not too familiar with every teams minor league system)
In ANY trade talk, you have the Toronto Maple leafs and Brian Burke. Burke likes to float EVERYTHING to get people talking about the Leafs, which puts pressure on any team he’s dealing with. Before today’s signing, the money (including mine) was on Antero Niittymaki of the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks have Niittymaki as a 3rd goaltender and he too, is too good to be sitting, but Burke isn’t just building for the now, he’s looking long term.
The New York Islanders just received news that Rick Dipietro is possibly out for the season with a sports hernia. It’s widely known that he was given a 15 year contract and was seen as the savior that would bring the Isle’s back to prominence, but his health has become an issue and that’s why they claimed Evgeny Nabakov on waivers last year. Claiming him gave them a chance to have a solid back up when Dipietro eventually went down. Nabakov is free to leave after the season so it’s not a stretch to think that the Islanders wouldn’t be interested in trying to acquire Bishop.
One that’s more of a long shot but worth noting is the Minnesota Wild. Their backup is an unrestircted free agent after the season and Josh Harding’s contract is up after next year. The thought would be to trade for Bishop and let him back up Harding and see if he’s ready for the big time. Could be worth watching in the next few months. Remember, the salary cap can creep up on anyone.
My surprise team is the New Jersey Devils. Martin Brodeur can’t play forever and his contract is up at the end of the season as is their backup, Johan Hedberg. Both of those guys make a healthy salary, but here’s where things get really interesting. It’s been floated out there that the New Jersey Devils are possibly going to have to file for bankruptcy protection because of the lease they have on their building. One of the first things that creditors make teams do is shed payroll to help cover costs. Does it make sense to pay aging goaltenders to put a body between the pipes or pay a guy who you can build on for the future after you get your house in order? So what of the guy gets waxed every night? He get’s NHL experience and either can be traded to a contender for a bag of goodies or you build the team like Nashville or the Blues through the draft with key parts in place. I really think this is something to watch, especially with the new CBA coming up at the end of the season.