Well-traveled Bishop could be starter for Lightning

Sunday, 09.08.2013 / 10:00 AM
Louie Korac  - NHL.com Correspondent

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Ben Bishop has a firm understanding of the business side of the NHL.

Bishop was built up as a promising goalie coming through the St. Louis Blues farm system after being selected in the third round (No. 85) of the 2005 NHL Draft. Playing for the team he grew up following and in a city where he's spent all but a year of his life was always a dream for the Denver-born netminder.

But not only was Bishop caught up in a numbers game with the Blues, who traded him to the Ottawa Senators in 2012 for a 2013 second-round pick, he was thrust into the same scenario with the Senators, who traded Bishop at the deadline last season to the Tampa Bay Lightning for forward Cory Conacher and a fourth-round pick.

The last year-and-a-half has been a whirlwind for Bishop, but one the 26-year-old said he doesn't regret.

"You definitely see the other side of professional-sports life where you know you can be in one city one day and in another city the next," Bishop told NHL.com recently after spending the summer in St. Louis working out with NHL players. "It's been a good year-and-a-half going from St. Louis to Ottawa and now going to Tampa.

"Both St. Louis and Ottawa are both great organizations. They were great to me. They gave me opportunities to go somewhere where I can play, and now I'm in Tampa. I feel a big responsibility to go to Tampa and do the same stuff I've been doing in Ottawa and St. Louis."

Bishop, who grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Des Peres, Mo., fulfilled his dream and played for the Blues; he had a 4-5-1 record in 13 games before being traded Feb. 12, 2012. He was thrust into action with the Senators following a freakish kitchen accident that sidelined starter Craig Anderson with a lacerated hand and had a 3-3-2 record in 10 games.

Bishop was 24-14-0 for the Peoria Rivermen in the American Hockey League when he was traded. His stock was rising by the second and the Blues had to make a decision. St. Louis had Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who beat out Bishop in training camp for the backup job, and a move was forthcoming.

Like in St. Louis, Ottawa had a goaltending glut that became crowded after Anderson's return from injury to all-star form with highly touted Robin Lehner waiting in the wings. Bishop seemed to be the odd-man out and off he went to the goalie-starved Lightning.

He went 3-4-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage in nine games with Tampa Bay last season.

"They both catch you off guard," Bishop said of being traded. "You're not really expecting it. Neither time was I told that I was going to be traded. I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen. I got a call in the hotel saying I was going to go to Tampa and I was obviously real excited. I know a few players down there and I know the direction that club's headed in. It's nowhere but north, so I was excited to have an opportunity to be a part of that."

For the first time in his NHL career, Bishop heads into a season with a realistic shot at being the No. 1 goalie. He will be challenged by Anders Lindback.

"It couldn't have worked out any better in my situation," said Bishop, who worked with Halak over the summer. "You never want to see anyone get hurt, but Craig goes down and he's playing Vezina-style, probably the best goalie in the League when he gets hurt. So you know they're not going to move him, and you have another young guy in Robin who's playing just as good. It was no hard feelings. They did me a favor by giving me a chance to go somewhere where I could get a chance to play.

"Now I'm in Tampa and it's going to be between Anders and myself. We're going to compete hard and we're going to have a good team."

It's been an arduous road for Bishop to get to this point. He doesn't take a spot in the NHL for granted.

"It's tough. There's only 30 jobs in the NHL for a starting job," Bishop said. "I'm not going to take it any differently this year than I have in the past. You're going and you're competing. You're going to compete every single year until you've proven yourself. I think Anders and I both are coming in with the same attitude. We both want to have that spot, but we both know we need to compete."

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