The Tampa Bay Lightning announced this afternoon that they have signed goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy to a three-year contract worth $10.5-million total, or $3.5-million per season.
Keeping his streak of signing players to cap-friendly deals alive, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman managed to ink Vasilevskiy in such a way that will give the Bolts an above-average starting goaltender at a very affordable rate. The signing of Vasilevskiy undoubtedly signals a changing of the guard for Tampa Bay, as it is almost a certainty now that Ben Bishop will be shown the door in one way or another. If there's one thing his run in the playoffs proved, it's that Vasilevskiy is prepared to be 'the guy' for the Lightning. He's going to get that shot.
While a lot of people are automatically concluding that Vasilevskiy assuming the number-one job means a downgrade in net for the Lightning, the numbers paint a different picture. Among the 67 goaltenders who have played at least 1,000 five-on-five minutes in the last two seasons according to Puckalytics.com, Vasilevskiy ranks 27th in 5v5 save percentage; Ben Bishop, for his part, ranks 28th. They are very comparable goaltenders, and the ceiling for Vasilevskiy given his age is likely higher than the value the Lightning would be able to derive from committing more dollars and more term to Bishop. Beyond the obvious and important cap savings, this decision to effectively hand the reigns to Vasilevskiy will almost certainly prove to be a smart one on the ice as well.
The obvious question now is this: What happens with Ben Bishop? Insiders from all corners of the hockey world have said that they believe he will be traded at some point, whether that's in the immediate future or towards the next trade deadline. The Dallas Stars have been rumored as a potential landing spot, and it's probable that there is another handful of teams willing to kick the tires on a recent Vezina finalist as well. All we have left to do now is wait.
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