This week's Capped discusses the Ben Bishop trade with relation to the trade value of big contracts.
There may not have been a more surprising trade leading up to this year’s deadline than the one that saw Ben Bishop moved out to the West Coast. Many were surprised for two reasons; the first of which was the fact that Los Angeles would even be interested in Bishop, due to the presence of Jonathan Quick, and the other being that Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman was not able to get much back in return. The package was a goalie who didn’t start the year in the NHL, a prospect, and a late pick. As a return for one of the better goalies in the league during the span of the last two years, it is a bit of a head scratcher. What is it then that actually makes this deal a good one for the Tampa Bay Lightning? Diving into it, there are a few main topics to cover.
Addition by Subtraction
Everyone knew that Bishop was going to be on his way out of Tampa soon. The looming date of the expansion draft took care of that. Andrei Vasilevskiy’s presence was enough to ensure that Bishop was the one to be pushed out. The future became now for the Lightning as their playoff hopes dimmed, and because of it, the more beneficial route to close out the season was to have it become Vasilevskiy’s crease. Ideally he would not only be backstopped by a reliable goalie, but also one who would not threaten the starter’s role. By moving Bishop out of the way, the Lightning actually did not lose much talent at all from their day-to-day goaltending, while improving other facets of the team. They have also somehow jumped right back into the playoff race.
The other big subtraction in the Ben Bishop trade was the shedding of Bishop’s contract. By taking his contract off the books, Tampa has gained themselves some much needed salary cap space. Had they kept up their current pace, Tampa Bay would have ended the season over the salary cap, and thus incurred overage penalties for the following year. By moving out Bishop as well as Valtteri Filppula (and then the resultant Mark Streit) in separate deals, Tampa managed to get themselves back on track. Incurring overage penalties in a season where you do not make the playoffs would be a foolish venture, as it would then hurt their chances more next season when they would be looking to rebound. The only way to make enough space was to move some of the bigger contracts. Additionally, with Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin needing new contracts, Tampa really has some number crunching to sort out in the offseason. As a result, the more money they can save themselves now, the better.
Supply and Demand
Because it was known around the league that Bishop was going to be on the move, the buyers had the upper hand to start. Bishop also could have contributed to the tying of Yzerman’s hands, due to possibly exerting the limited no trade clause in his contract, in which he could select up to eight teams to which he would not accept a trade. Also, most playoff teams are playoff teams for a reason, and have a backbone of a solid starting goalie. All of those points mean that Yzerman was starting way behind the eight-ball.
With Bishop set to become an Unrestricted Free Agent at season’s end, Yzerman also had no more time to wait. He didn’t want to let Bishop walk for nothing in return, but there wasn’t much else to be had, therefore he had to settle for the small package that he got from Los Angeles; and maybe the best part of the return isn’t even the pick or the prospect. Peter Budaj had been having quite the season for Los Angeles, and could bring some stability in behind Vasilevskiy. His presence also keeps Kristers Gudlevskis down in the minors where he can keep getting starts and putting up good numbers. Now, while this may never go down as a win for Tampa Bay, we can begin to see how this deal does make sense from their point of view.
As fantasy GMs, there is a lot to be learned here from Yzerman, Tampa Bay, and the movement of big contracts. Oftentimes assets can have their value greatly changed by both the contract they own, as well as the supply and demand of the situation. Fully understanding all of the moving parts can be tough, but making successful deals can hinge on it. Being able to evaluate the pros and cons of talent levels exchanged in addition to other aspects like salaries really separates the good GMs from the mediocre ones.
Yzerman was able to realize that he was going to be left holding the hot potato that was not going to have much value for Tampa Bay to close out the season. He also knew he had to get a little drastic with the salary cap maneuvers (it is always better to act early on those before the vultures start circling). Yzerman took the small upgrades in the short term, but he understood the value of the flexibility that the deal gives his team in the long term, and will be able to use it down the road in order to keep Tampa Bay as one of the perennial top contenders.
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