Stars GM defends Bishop contract, checks goalie purge options

In a perfect world, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill doesn’t give goalie Ben Bishop that contract.

Oh, he still signs the former Tampa Bay Lightning starter. He would have jumped at the chance to sign him for a $4.916 million cap hit, too.

But six years, for a goalie turning 31 early next season?

“In the real world, you’d like to do two- or three-year deals. But you know that’s not going to happen,” Nill told Yahoo Sports after the signing. “For him to commit financially the way he did, you have to give something. That’s just part of negotiations. He’s not going to come here for three or four years and $4 million.”

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Four years at about $4 million per season is what the Carolina Hurricanes gave goalie Scott Darling, after acquiring him from the Chicago Blackhawks. The Journal De Montreal reported that Nill was in on Darling, but scoffed at the asking price of a third-round pick for his negotiating rights. Instead, he traded a fourth-round pick, one that was acquired by Dallas from the Montreal Canadiens for defenseman Jordie Benn (114th overall), to the Los Angeles Kings for Bishop’s rights.

But the Stars are happy with Bishop. Nill said concerns about his health are unfounded, despite his injury affected 2016-17 campaign. “He’s been fine. If you look at his numbers, he’s been one of the healthiest players around,” said Nill.

They also like him with Ken Hitchcock behind the bench. Not only because Hitch gets great numbers from his goalies in his first few seasons in nearly every NHL stop of his coaching career, but because Bishop and Hitchcock know each other a bit, having bonded during Bishop’s offseason workouts in St. Louis where Hitchcock coached until last season.

“That’s a part of [the draw]. Hitch has a pedigree,” said Nill.

But again, most of the draw for Bishop was six years of term.

“He wanted six years. He made a commitment to come here. He wants this to be his last stop. He believes in the program, so he wanted a commitment that way. On the flip side for us, to make this work financially it’s probably what we needed to do to make it work cap wise,” said Nill.

“We think he’s a good fit. And now with the expansion and NHL Drafts coming up, I’ll see whatever moves we can make with the other goalies. There’s a lot of movement of goalies right now. Let’s see where it all lands.”

Ah, yes, the other shoe. Kari Lehtonen, 33, making $5.9 million against the cap next season. Antti Niemi, 33, making $4.5 million against the cap next season.

In theory, Nill would like both of them gone, going with Bishop plus a cheaper backup, and not spending over $10 million on his goalies. But obviously, one of them will be gone by next season.

Both can be exposed in the expansion draft for the Golden Knights, although given the goalies expected to be available it would probably take some draft pick incentive for Vegas to take one of these problems off the Stars’ hands.

“It’s not so much contingent on Vegas as what other teams do around the expansion draft,” said Nill.

What he’s hoping for: That this expected musical chairs of goalies ends with there being an opportunity for one of his veterans to land somewhere else. Like, in theory, if Marc-Andre Fleury is traded to Vegas and the Pittsburgh Penguins want a veteran backup for Matt Murray. Or really any situation like that.

“I’ve got two goalies that only have one year left. That’s intriguing for teams,” said Nill. “There are going to be other opportunities. This isn’t just about Vegas taking a goalie. I think there’s going to be other opportunities.”

But if there isn’t another team that helps out Nill, he has a green light from ownership to help himself by buying out a goalie.

“If necessary, yeah. I’m not worried about that. We’re in a great cap position,” said Nill of the Stars, who are projected to have over $15 million in cap space heading into the summer.

Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.

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