|By Lisa Gansky (Flickr: IMG_9865) [CC BY-SA 2.0],|
via Wikimedia Commons
The Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning made a surprising trade this afternoon. Peter Budaj and defensive prospect Erik Cernak, and a 7th round 2017 draft pick, plus a conditional draft pick that could be as early as second round depending on if or how well the Kings do in the playoffs. In return for all of this the Kings got Goal-tender Ben Bishop. This move is surprising mostly because of how quiet it was kept. There was virtually no chatter or rumors that Steve Yzerman of the Lightning and Dean Lombardi of the Kings were even speaking about the possibility of trading Budaj for Bishop before the official word came down.
Peter Budaj has taken on the brunt of the goal-tending work for the Kings since Jonathan Quick's injury part way through the 1st game of this season. While he is not the super star the Quick is, Budaj has done an admirable job of helping to keep the Kings in the running for the playoffs this season, including a league record for this season in shutout games at 7. That being said however, Quick was able to return to the ice for his first game back this season yesterday 2/25 against the Ducks. Quick did not appear at all out of condition or to be favoring his injury in any way. He allowed only 1 goal of 33 shots for the Ducks in what turned out to be a 4-1 win for the Kings. With the Kings still planning to make the playoffs this year it makes sense that they would want to have a back up goalie with more post season experience than Budaj has. That is no reflection on the Job Budaj has done this season for the Kings. In fact it is likely the fact that Budaj has proven his worth so effectively that made him a viable option for trade to the Lightning, though he may well be sent down to the AHL again he is at least considered a dependable player to call back up into the Lightning net should the need arise. Budaj has played 53 games this season with a 2.12 goals against average and a 0.917 save percentage along with his 7 shutouts. I sincerely hope he does indeed get the chance to continue playing on NHL ice, I believe he has earned it and deserves it.
The other consideration for the Kings organization is that this is not the first time Quick has taken a serious groin injury. Coach Sullivan is reported to have decided, with Quick's input, that Quick can not maintain the full load of games that he used to and remain healthy and effective. This was probably the other key reason that Ben Bishop was an attractive prospect to share the goalie work load with Jonathan Quick. Bishop has started in 31 games and played 32 so far this season and has a 2.55 goals against average and a 0.911 save percentage for the 2016-17 season he has a record of 16 wins, 12 losses, and 3 OT losses. His career stats are even better at 2.32 goals against and a save percentage of 0.919. I believe that he will be an excellent fit for the Kings organization and truly hope that between Quick and Bishop along with the hard work of the rest of the team the Kings will be able to secure a slot in the playoffs this season.
From the Lightning perspective, Andrei Vasilevskiy is more than ready to take over the lead goal-tending slot for the Lightning solo. His stats are nearly the same a Bishop's for this season with nearly and equal amount of games played. This trade of Bishop also frees up some much needed cap space for the Lightning organization, which will allow them to make some better player moves and or contract renewals in the off season. Bishop was also a pending unrestricted free agent in July, so if Yzerman did not make a trade with him before then he would risk getting nothing in return for losing Bishop anyway. Bishop carries a 5.95 million dollar cap hit and with this trade the Lightning will now only be responsible for 20% of that cap.
All in all I think the trade was a win-win for both teams. The Lightning got a talented goalie along with a prospect and some early round draft picks for next season, and the Kings did not give up any more than they could afford to for much needed experienced back up for a potential post season run. I am happy to see Ben Bishop added to the Kings line up and wish Peter Budaj all the best in his new position with the Lightning.