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Lightning will face goalie decision at some point

Bishop, Vasilevskiy -- plus Kucherov, Hedman -- part of difficulty to keep roster together

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop said Friday he was about a week away from being able to play and would probably have been ready for Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final had they made it there.

But the Lightning lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday to end their season.

Bishop said the lower-body injury he sustained in the first period of Game 1 of the conference final was a strain to the tendons in his left ankle up to his shin.

"When I went down, I felt a huge pop and there was a bunch of pressure and pain," Bishop said. "My shin was sticking out and I pretty much strained all the stuff in my shin and ankle."

Bishop missed the rest of the series and said he the injury made it difficult for him to get in the butterfly position. Andrei Vasilevskiy started the final six games and had a save percentage of .925 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm7: Vasilevskiy and Hedman keep puck out

Before Bishop was injured, he was arguably the best goalie remaining in the playoffs. He had a .939 save percentage with two shutouts in 11 starts. He spoke highly of Vasilevskiy but said it was difficult to watch and not be able to play.

"It stinks; I wanted to be out there with the guys and help the team win," Bishop said. "It's unfortunate, it's no fun to sit there and watch. If I was a skater I probably could have played, but as a goalie I needed more time, especially not being able to get in the butterfly."

Bishop has one year remaining on his contract, and with the emergence of Vasilevskiy there could be scenarios where the Lightning would entertain a trade offer. General manager Steve Yzerman said he likes his goalie situation, right now.

"We have to look at the salary cap and also consider the prospects of expansion," Yzerman said. "Eventually we will have to make a tough decision, but right now that's not the case."

Bishop said he wants to stay with the Lightning and believes a team needs two quality goalies to win.

"You look at Montreal when Carey Price went down," Bishop said. "They struggled to replace him. I think you need two goalies that give you a chance to win every night. I hope we'll be back together next year. At least that's what I want."

Yzerman said because of the NHL salary cap it will be difficult to keep the Lightning roster the same that it's been over the past two seasons, when Tampa Bay also reached the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm1: Bishop stones Malkin, freezes the puck

Yzerman said Friday he wants to re-sign unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos, the Lightning captain, and restricted free agent forward Nikita Kucherov and defenseman Victor Hedman, who has one year left on his contract, are two players in line for a big raise.

"When you look at the salary-cap situation, it's difficult to bring in significant free agents," Yzerman said. "Especially since we want to retain all of our free agents, if that's possible. We've been fortunate to be able to keep this team together mostly unchanged the last two years. I don't know if that's going to be possible going into next season."

The Lightning want to keep Kucherov and Hedman for several years and will try to get contracts done quickly. Hedman said he wants to continue his NHL career where it started in 2009.

"I love it here," Hedman said. "I've been here for my whole career. This is a great place to play and a great organization to play for. We're close to winning a championship and I know everyone here is going to do what it takes to get there."

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