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Bishop excited for new opportunity in Ottawa

Sunday, 02.26.2012 / 2:14 PM / NHL Insider

By Louie Korac - NHL.com Correspondent



As expected, the St. Louis Blues have traded goaltender Ben Bishop, sending the native St. Louisan to the Ottawa Senators in exchange a 2013 second-round pick.

The Senators, in need of a netminder after the strange hand injury recently suffered by starter Craig Anderson, are expected to sign the 6-foot-7 Bishop to a one-year, one-way contract, according to reports, largely because of the stipulations that would kick in for Bishop had he not played in at least 30 minutes of 17 NHL games this season.

The Blues were faced with the same situation, as Bishop would have become a Group VI unrestricted free agent at season's end and felt they couldn't allow Bishop, 25, to walk for nothing after getting noticed around the NHL for his stellar play with the team's AHL affiliate in Peoria.

"I've kind of had in my head the last month that it was going to happen," Bishop said Sunday morning. "I'm excited now that it's over and I can go back to focusing just on playing hockey. I've heard a bunch of good things about (Ottawa) and they've got a great young team coming up. So I'm excited to be part of the organization."

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Bishop was 24-14-0 in 38 games with the Rivermen, compiling a 2.26 goals-against average, .928 save percentage and six shutouts. He was a late selection to the AHL All-Star Game and stopped 10 of 11 shots in the game. He stopped all four shootout attempts in helping the Western Conference to an 8-7 victory, earning the game's MVP award that helped open more eyes around the League.

Bishop was locked in a battle in training camp with Brian Elliott for the backup job behind Jaroslav Halak. But Blues general manager Doug Armstrong chose the more experienced Elliott after Halak struggled in camp. The decision has been greatly rewarding for the Blues, who have a pair of legitimate No. 1's now even though it was disappointing for Bishop to go back to the AHL. Both Halak and Elliott are among the NHL leaders in a number of goaltending categories.

"Yeah, I mean obviously my dream ever since I was a kid and especially after I got drafted was to win a Stanley Cup in St. Louis," said Bishop, who was born in Denver but has lived in St. Louis the majority of his life. "I've always wanted to do that. I've always wanted to be in St. Louis, my heart has always been and probably will be in St. Louis. But it's part of the business and you've got to go where the opportunities are.

"Ottawa is a great opportunity for me now and I'm excited for it. Not many people get a chance to play in their hometown and I've already had that chance. Obviously (it would have been a) dream come true, but that's not the reality. The reality is get in the NHL and play. I think that's more important than being in your hometown."

Bishop, a third-round pick for the Blues in 2005, has played in only 13 NHL games in his career, going 4-5-1 with a 2.83 GAA and an .896 save-percentage. He will give the Senators insurance in goal, as Ottawa is in the thick of a playoff race in the Eastern Conference, sitting in seventh place with 72 points. They have been going with 31-year-old backup Alex Auld and recently recalled 20-year-old prospect Robin Lehner as a backup.

"I think they're right there in the playoff push so it would be fun to get up there and help them out," Bishop said of the Senators. "I'm not quite sure how long Craig Anderson is out, but anything I can do to help the team, I'm excited to get up there, meet the guys and get going.

"I do not know much about Ottawa. I've never been there. I heard it's a great city, a great hockey town, a rich tradition."

Armstrong was content with keeping Bishop and risk losing him as an unrestricted free agent this summer unless he got what he felt was proper compensation.

"Well, when we signed Elliott we knew Ben's situation, (but) I was very content to have Ben play the season for us," Armstrong said. "If we didn't get what we perceived was the proper value, he would have stayed in Peoria. But when Ottawa called, and we were able to work out something that both sides felt was appropriate, it was an easy decision.

"I wanted fair compensation and that can come in the form of a pick, a prospect or a player. You go into things with an open mind, (but) I did feel a pick was the more likely scenario. I guess if somebody had come to me with a prospect, we would have discussed it, but with Ottawa, I was (offered) a pick and I was comfortable with that. ... You have to be realistic about what's available and we have other things that we have to consider making trades."

Bishop seems willing to take a one-year deal now, especially since he knows would be on a one-way contract next season. But if he were somehow to play at least 30 minutes in 17 of the Senators' games this season, he would revert back to a restricted free agent.

"I wanted to get to the NHL obviously as fast as I could," Bishop said. "Obviously if there's a team out there that wants you, I don't really see the difference in them wanting me July 1 or right now. The fact that Ottawa wants you right now is exciting, so I don't think it was necessary to wait until July 1. If they're willing to grab me now, it's pretty exciting to have a team now that wants you.

"It would nice to get something done, but I think we'll have to wait and see. That's not my focus ... it's just getting up there and playing well."

The trade to the Senators reunites Bishop with Ottawa goaltending coach Rick Wamsley, who coached Bishop and helped develop him in Peoria.

"That'll be exciting to get back with him, working with a coach that you've worked with before," Bishop said. "He's obviously helped me get to where I am today. He's helped me big time when it comes to being a pro. It'll be a lot of fun to work with him again and I'm excited to see him."

Bishop has no ill regards towards the Blues or the organization but is ready to move onto new challenges.

"I obviously want to say thank you to (Blues President John Davidson) and Doug Armstrong and (former GM) Larry Pleau for drafting me and bringing me up ... all the coaches I worked with, Andy Murray, Davis Payne and Ken Hitchcock," Bishop said. "(Peoria coach) Jared Bednar has done a great job. Thank you to all of those guys. They're one of the classiest organizations I've seen and I can't say enough good things about them. It's going to be sad to leave, but I'm excited about Ottawa."

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory