If the St. Louis Blues picked their starting goalie this season based on training camp performance, Ben Bishop probably deserved the job. But St. Louis preferred going with the experienced Brian Elliott instead of the potential that came with the 6-foot-7 Bishop.
Bishop went back to Peoria, where he put together his best season in the AHL yet, winning 24 games with a 2.26 goals-against average and .928 save percentage.
Now, he gets his NHL chance. The Ottawa Senators dealt for the promising Bishop this morning to help ease the pain of Craig Anderson's injury, and it could end up being a wise move for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray. The deal thins out an already weak goalie market as Monday's trade deadline closes in.
"I think [Bishop is] absolutely fired up for this opportunity to get in there and establish himself now," said former Blues coach Davis Payne this morning. "He's going to be jacked up to get a chance."
And Payne thinks he's ready. The issue for the 25-year-old Bishop has been consistency. Payne said one of the biggest issues Bishop dealt with was handling early success and maintaining the necessary focus during the course of an entire season. This season he found that consistency, and Payne thinks he's more than ready to bring that to the NHL.
"He's capable of playing in the NHL," Payne said. "How much [he plays] is going to be up to him. It's going to be new challenges ... the key will be how he deals with a bump in a road and everything that goes with playing in a big Canadian market."
Payne sees a bit of Pekka Rinne in Bishop's game. Both are big goalies, and Payne said Bishop has the same kind of athleticism and skill.
"He has good hands, catches the puck well," Payne said. "He has a little bit of style."
The Bishop deal gives teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto Maple Leafs one less goalie option, and those options may be dwindling. New York Islanders GM Garth Snow told ESPN New York's Katie Strang today that the Islanders still aren't planning on moving Evgeni Nabokov and continue to have contract negotiations with him.
Besides having another year left on his contract, Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't played well lately. In four February starts, Khabibulin is 1-1-1 with a 3.90 GAA and .887 save percentage. It leaves Minnesota's Josh Harding as the best available goalie, even if he is lacking in experience.