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Ben Bishop looking forward to working with Ken Hitchcock on Stars

Goalie built relationship with coach during workouts in offseason home of St. Louis

NHL.com @NHL

Ben Bishop said he is looking forward to playing for the Dallas Stars in part because of his relationship with coach Ken Hitchcock.

The goaltender was traded to Dallas by the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. Bishop has never played for Hitchcock in the NHL but came to know him during workouts in his offseason hometown when Hitchcock was coach of the St. Louis Blues.

"I think we have a good relationship, and I know his teams in St. Louis were tough to play against," Bishop told DallasNews.com on Wednesday. "Like I said, I don't want to get ahead of myself, but this looks a lot like the team we had [with the Tampa Bay Lightning] when I first got there. There is plenty of firepower to score goals, and the opportunity is there to work on the other areas and improve those areas."

Bishop, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, was 18-15-5 this season, including 2-3-2 in seven games with the Kings after he was traded to Los Angeles by Tampa Bay on Feb. 26.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself, because I know we have the negotiating process to go through, but I'm excited," said Bishop, who played for Texas of the North American Hockey League in 2004-05. "I know the area down there, I graduated from Frisco High School, and I know how passionate the fans are there. I was just really excited to hear the news."

Video: How will the Dallas Stars make room for Ben Bishop?

Bishop is 148-80-25 in 270 games with the Lightning, Kings, Ottawa Senators and St. Louis Blues. The 30-year-old had a .910 save percentage and 2.54 goals-against average in 39 games this season. He has a .919 save percentage, 2.32 GAA and 19 shutouts in his NHL career and twice has finished in the top three in Vezina Trophy voting (second in 2015-16; third in 2013-14).

Dallas acquired him for a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. Hitchcock was fired by the Blues on Feb. 1 and was hired to replace Lindy Ruff with the Stars on April 12.

"I was able to watch [Ben] a lot up close, and I think the thing you come away with is he makes it really hard for a shooter to see any openings," Hitchcock said. "I think you really have to work to score on him."

Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen were the Stars goaltenders this season. Lehtonen was 22-25-7 with a 2.85 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage, and Niemi was 12-12-4 with a 3.30 GAA and .892 save percentage.

The Stars were 29th in the NHL in goals allowed per game (3.17) and 30th (last) in save percentage (.893).

"We knew we had issues that had to be dealt with, and we feel we are dealing with them," Dallas general manager Jim Nill said. "If we can add Ben Bishop to what we think Ken Hitchcock will be able to do as head coach, we have the opportunity to be a much better team defensively."

The trade likely means Niemi and Lehtonen will be exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft that will supply the Vegas Golden Knights with their players. NHL teams can protect one goaltender and must submit their list of protected players by 5 p.m. ET on June 17. Vegas must choose one player from each NHL roster.

The website also speculated the Stars could buy out either Lehtonen or Niemi. Lehtonen, 33, has one season left on his contract at $5.9 million, and Niemi, 33, has one season at $4.5 million, according to Cap Friendly.

Bishop is coming off a two-year, $11.9 million contract he signed with Tampa Bay before the 2015-16 season.

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