Was Trading Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop the Right Move for Tampa Bay Lightning?
The biggest deal of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning was sending rookie-of-the-year candidate Cory Conacher to Ottawa for goaltender Ben Bishop. If—more when—Bishop makes a start for the Lightning, he will be the fourth goaltender to start this season. Given the goaltending situation, it is easy to question if this was the right move.
The full terms of the deal were Bishop for Conacher and the Lightning’s fourth-round draft pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
Tampa Bay has struggled in goal since the 2011 season, where Dwayne Roloson brought the team to within one game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Conacher was one of the brightest stars for the Lightning this season. While the trade is being dubbed a strength-for-strength transaction, was it the right move for the Lightning?
Here is why it was—or was not—smart to bring Bishop to the Sunshine State.
Good: The Lightning Need Goaltending
In 2011, the Lightning finished 22nd in the league in goals-against per game (2.85). They rode a hot goaltender in Dwayne Roloson to get to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Tampa Bay is in a similar situation now.
The Bolts are currently 21st in the league in GAPG (2.97). Roloson was acquired on January 1 and was able to take over the No. 1 role to propel the Lightning. Bishop will be asked to do the same thing this season.
In save percentage, Anders Lindback (.903) and Mathieu Garon (.902) sit 34th and 35th respectively out of 46 eligible goaltenders (at least 12 starts). Bishop is ninth with a .922 save percentage.
Bad: The Lightning Don’t Need That Much Goaltending
If you can never have too much of a good thing, the Lightning may be stretching that a little thin.
Goaltenders in system and age:
Anders Lindback (24)
Mathieu Garon (35)
Ben Bishop (26)
Cedrick Desjardins (27)
Riku Helenius (25)
Andrei Vasilevski (First-round pick in 2012, 18)
If goaltending is like pitching in baseball, the Lightning have enough for a full rotation and more. Lindback, Bishop, Desjadins, Helenius and Vasilevski all (should) have their best years in front of them.
Garon will inevitably be traded or released at some point. Helenius or Desjardins could be traded to make room for Vasilevski in the American Hockey League.
None of these goaltenders are proven at the NHL level as No. 1. goaltenders, and isn’t that what the Lightning need? General manager Steve Yzerman will either look like a genius for finding all this young talent or a fool for trading away so many assets and still not having a top-level goaltender.
Good: Conacher’s Production Had Slowed Immensely
There was nothing but praise for Cory Conacher in the first month of the season. He had 12 points in the first seven games of the season. After a six-game scoreless drought, he rattled off points in six straight.
It had been that kind of a season for Conacher. Unfortunately, he had just six points since February 28. His drop in production caused a drop in minutes and now a change in scenery.
The drop in production makes the trade easier to understand. Predicting the effectiveness of any rookie is difficult, and the hot start was going to be impossible for Conacher to continue. It was good for the Lightning to trade him now.
Bad: Conacher Is Just a Rookie
We can’t forget that this season featured only a week-long training camp and no preseason. That makes things extremely difficult on rookies trying to adapt to NHL level hockey.
Conacher adapted and excelled in the most adverse conditions. His 24 points is second among rookies and just one point behind Justin Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers. Why let someone who is having that much success in a difficult rookie season go?
Every point Conacher scores for the Senators is going to sting those Lightning fans that fell in love with his work ethic, heart, skill and production.
Neutral: Projecting Success
Imagine being a professional scout for an NHL club for a second. You are in charge of watching hours and hours of hockey prospects and report to the front office with your best GUESS about who will be a solid NHL player.
It’s impossible to predict who will be a bust and who will be a star. Hindsight is always 20/20, and it will be no different in this situation.
Conacher has his best years in front of him—so does Bishop. In a few years, will Conacher be a superstar in the NHL or AHL? Is Bishop the next Martin Brodeur or Rick DiPietro?
There is no telling how young players will develop. At this point, the Senators and Lightning will just have to sit back and wait.
Final Verdict: Good
Cory Conacher is a good player. Ben Bishop is a good goaltender.
New head coach Jon Cooper appears to be the one calling most of the shots for the front office. He is molding this team into what he wants and the direction he sees it taking. He knows Bishop. He knew Conacher.
Cooper gets to have a tryout in goal over the next three weeks and pick the goaltender he wants to use for the future of the franchise. From that standpoint, having six goaltenders is a good thing.
The Lightning are loaded with young, talented forwards to be the future of the franchise after Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis retire. This offseason will bring major changes to the franchise.
Was it a good trade? For Cooper, yes it was. This is his team, and it appears the front office has put 100 percent faith in his system.
The trade provides the Lightning with depth, size and a newfound confidence. It might even lead to some playoff appearances. Losing Conacher’s potential will sting, but it will all be forgotten about when Bishop starts to rack up wins.