The Dallas Stars have locked up a goalie with Stanley Cup Final experience in hopes of solving one of their biggest problems.
Ben Bishop signed a six-year, $29.5 million deal with the Stars, whose announcement Friday came only three days after the team acquired rights to the 30-year-old goalie from the Los Angeles Kings. Dallas gave up a fourth-round pick in next month’s NHL draft.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to play a few years in the league, and now it’s about going somewhere you think you have a chance to win, and a good city,” said Bishop, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent had Dallas not signed him before July 1. “Dallas has both.”
The Stars, who last month re-introduced Ken Hitchcock as their coach after firing Lindy Ruff, see the two-time Vezina Trophy finalist as their new starter in net. They had a two-goalie system with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi each of the last two seasons, and missed the playoffs this year.
“Ben is an elite goaltender in this league and we’re thrilled to be adding him to our mix,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said. “Ben’s commitment to what we are building in Dallas, and his passion for wanting to be a part of it, was evident during the negotiating process.”
While the 6-foot-7 Bishop was born in Denver, he graduated from high school in Frisco. That was back when there was only one high school in the suburban area north of downtown Dallas where the Stars’ practice facility is located. At age 18, Bishop played during the 2004-05 season for the Texas Tornado, an NAHL team out of that same building as the Stars.
Ben’s commitment to what we are building in Dallas, and his passion for wanting to be a part of it, was evident during the negotiating process.
Stars general manager Jim Nill, on signing Ben Bishop
Before missing the playoffs this year with their two 33-year-old goalies from Finland, the Stars had been the top seed in the Western Conference in 2015-16 when Lehtonen and Niemi both won 25 games in the regular season before Dallas was ousted in the second round of the playoffs. Lehtonen and Niemi are both under contract for next season at a combined $10.4 million. The Stars haven’t revealed their plans for the two.
Bishop indicated during a conference call with reporters that he looked forward to having Lehtonen, who is set to make $5 million next season, as a goalie partner. He said they have a good relationship after getting to know each other at the same goalie camp the past couple of summers.
“I think we’re both at the stage of our careers where it’s more about winning,” Bishop said.
Niemi has a $4.5 million salary for next season, and the Stars could buy him out with a salary cap hit of $1.5 million each of the next two years.
Bishop indicated he looked forward to having Kari Lehtonen, who is set to make $5 million next season, as a goalie partner. The Stars could buy out Antti Niemi.
Bishop played just seven games after the Kings acquired him from Tampa Bay to play alongside Jonathan Quick. Since-fired Kings general manager Dean Lombardi engineered the trade to create an elite goaltending duo that would allow the Kings to rest Quick, who was returning from a major injury.
Los Angeles still failed to make the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Bishop went 2-3-2 with a 2.49 goals-against average.
Bishop spent parts of the past five seasons with the Lightning, reaching the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. He finished second in the Vezina voting in 2016 after getting selected for the All-Star Game. Bishop also has played for Ottawa and St. Louis.
In 270 career NHL regular-season games over his career, Bishop has a 2.32 GAA and a .919 save percentage.