Every month somewhere after the 20th I send a significant portion of my pay check to pay for a car I tolerate, but don’t really like. I know I need the car. I have to get to work, and an hour long metro ride then 25 minute walk to work each way doesn’t sound appealing.
I pay more than I would like to for this car. I got it from Carmax with zero money down and no co-signer. It felt nice to be able to walk in and get one given some of the financial chaos I went through after I graduated college, but I’ve always felt like I’m being ripped off to a degree with how much I’m paying. And yet, the car is still outside.
Goalies aren’t much different. Goalie performance can be so variable from year to year that it’s easy to get stuck with a lemon. Paying for a goalie is one of those necessary evils NHL clubs just accept. In a perfect world a mid-tier free agent will step up and save general managers some dough, but banking on it to happen is hit and miss. Then when you miss you take heat for not going after the bigger fish.
Enter Ben Bishop. The Dallas Stars inked him to a six year deal for a hair under thirty million. He’s been ok, and with a cap hit under five per year it would be hard to really complain too much. I got into a Twitter conversation the other day discussing how Bishop is going to hold the Stars back from locking up younger guys and in general hold the franchise back.
My initial reaction to this was “that’s bullshit”, but in my past life I was often too quick to outright reject ideas that seemed silly to me. So, I decided to see if this idea is as silly as it initially seemed to me.
The initial premise here is that the Stars are paying too much for their average to solid goaltending. I can dig it. This year in particular they are paying more than you would like, but too much suggests there are other things right now that they could do with the money. The roster doesn’t need much.
On their ledger you will find over 12 million in goalie salaries when you throw the Antti Niemi buyout in there, but for the sake of fairness lets just chalk Niemi up as a generic dead cap hit. Bishop and Kari Lehtonen combine for close to eleven millon this season. Most teams spend about six to seven million per season on their duo.
But, wait! Lehtonen is a free agent after this year which drops that total by almost six million. Bishop is paid near the league average for a starting goalie. Were the Stars to re-sign Lehtonen to a more reasonable total, say two million per year, the Stars come in at about seven million for their duo. Or, roughly league average.
Bishop’s contract is structured in a way to make it VERY tradeable. He will take in 2/3 of the total value of his deal in the first three seasons. The final three seasons are low salary and have limited no trade protection. His contract is a very tradeable to a receiving team needing to soak up salary cap space without paying actual money.
Those three years will likely be years where you would reasonably expect him to be a backup caliber goalie, but also when you would expect one of the Stars top goaltending prospects to at least be in the NHL doing something. Colton Point and Jake Oettinger are legit and in college. Surely one of them is in the NHL by that point.
Who does Bishop keep the Stars from re-signing? Everyone is under contract through next year. Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin are up simultaneously so the Stars will shift some of Spezza’s money to Seguin, but outside of that? I don’t see who is impacted. The core of the team is in tact. Even Esa Lindell, when he hits restricted free agency, likely soaks up Marc Methot’s money. So, I don’t know.
If anything I guess there’s an argument to be made for a limited amount of cap space minimizing the Stars’ activity in the trade market. As the year goes on and available space gets prorated to allow for teams to acquire higher salaried players without killing their cap I still don’t see the impact.
The only real money problem I see with the current roster is paying an injury-prone fourth line center almost five million dollars a year to win faceoffs and stand statuesque in front of the opposing net while Brett Ritchie tries to will pucks on goal from five feet away.
Maybe sometimes silly positions really are just silly. Ben Bishop isn’t much of a problem even if he falls off of a cliff. NHL clubs are always going to pay to feel secure in net because they would rather be caught with an average guy long term than with a mediocre job-killer for even a season.
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