The Calgary Flames biggest need this summer was to make an upgrade in goal. They had plenty of options before settling on Brian Elliott. It has recently become public they were close to trading for Ben Bishop. So close in fact, that Bishop and the Flames were negotiating a contract extension.
Bishop was a Vezina Trophy candidate last season, but the Flames made the right call in acquiring Elliott instead.
Calgary Flames Wise To Add Brian Elliott Over Ben Bishop
Bishop certainly would have given the Flames elite-level goaltending. The 6’7” netminder was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NHL Draft by the St. Louis Blues. By 2011-12, the Blues had Jaroslav Halak and Elliott at the NHL level, while Bishop was splitting time with Jake Allen in the American Hockey League.
The Denver, Colorado native started 38 games with the Peoria Rivermen in the 2011-12 season and posted a 2.26 goals-against average (GAA) with a .928 save percentage (SV%). To clear up the logjam in goal, Bishop was dealt to the Ottawa Senators for a second round pick.
A year later, and having posted solid numbers with both the Binghamton and Ottawa Senators, Bishop was on the move again. He was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Cory Conacher and a fourth round draft pick.
Bishop has been one of the league’s best goaltenders since arriving in Tampa Bay. He has been their starter for the past three seasons, and is tied with Braden Holtby for most wins (112) in that time. He also has the fifth best GAA (2.20) and fifth highest SV% (.922) since the 2013-14 season.
Elliott Came Cheaper Than Bishop Would Have
One problem with acquiring Bishop would have been asking price. It’s safe to say the 29 year old would be worth much more today than when he was previously traded.
It was rumoured around the draft that the Pittsburgh Penguins were asking the Flames for the sixth overall pick in exchange for Marc-Andre Fleury.
Obviously the Flames were hesitant to include their first round pick in any deal, but the Lightning would have had similarly high demands for their number one goalie. It’s doubtful the Flames would have moved the sixth pick for Bishop. However, they would have had to include a good prospect – say Rasmus Andersson – with the second round pick to land Bishop.
Elliott’s Cap Hit More Manageable
Another reason that Elliott fits better with the current Flames roster is his cap hit. Both Elliott and Bishop will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the upcoming season. Bishop’s current cap hit is $5.95 million while Elliott will earn $2.5 million.
Trading for Elliott instead of Bishop saved the Flames about $3.5 million in cap space for next season. The team was able to use that to sign Troy Brouwer this summer, who upgrades the team on right wing. A signing they could not have made if Bishop was on the payroll.
It’s impossible to predict the future, but with his playoff track record Bishop will be looking at a much higher payday than Elliot next summer. Bishop helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2015. He posted an impressive 2.18 GAA and a .921 SV% in 25 games.
Last season, Bishop was even better in the postseason before injury knocked him out early in the Eastern Conference Final. He had a 1.86 GAA and .939 SV%, leading the Lightning to the third round, before a season-ending knee injury.
Elliott had a great playoff run with St. Louis last season. However, it was the first real stretch of postseason games for the 31-year-old. Bishop is two years younger. With his track record in the playoffs, this will lead to a bigger contract for the American next year.
Elliott Among League’s Best Goaltenders
The best reason for acquiring Elliott, is that he has quietly been one of the best goaltender’s in the league for a long period of time. Over the past three seasons, Elliott’s .923 SV% percentage ranks fourth best and his 2.12 GAA is tied with Carey Price as the lowest in the league.
To sum up, the Flames gave up less to get Elliott, saved enough money to add Brouwer and acquired a goaltender with better numbers than Bishop in the past three years.
The Flames were very close to adding Bishop at the draft in June, but made the right choice by ending negotiations with the Lightning and turning their attention to Elliott.