The 26-year-old goaltender will get that chance in a Tampa Bay Lightning uniform after he signed a two-year contract extension on Monday worth $4.6 million. The deal will pay him $2.2 million next season and $2.4 million in 2014-15, according to TSN in Canada. Bishop was scheduled to be a restricted free agent at season's end.
The former third-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2005 was traded last season to Ottawa after serving as the No. 3 goaltender behind Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott.
This season, while Bishop received playing time due to an injury to Craig Anderson in Ottawa, he was essentially the third goalie behind Robin Lehner and Anderson. Bishop was 8-5 with a 2.45 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in 13 games with the Senators this season.
Now with Tampa Bay, Bishop — who made 45 saves in a shutout victory in his Lightning debut on April 4 — has the opportunity to earn a regular role in the NHL, competing with Anders Lindback for playing time heading into next season.
“It's exciting, it's something you work your whole life for to get the chance,'' said Bishop, 2-3 with a 3.16 goals-against average and .912 save percentage in six games with Tampa Bay. “This year with Craig getting hurt I had the opportunity to play a lot of games, and I tried to make the most of it.''
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the thought when Tampa Bay traded Cory Conacher for Bishop was to get him signed as quickly as possible.
“We acquire him and our intention was to sign him and keep him in the organization,'' Yzerman said. “Ben recognizes that he's getting an opportunity to play a lot here. It's a good opportunity and it makes senses for both parties.''
But after getting to this point in his journey to try to become a No. 1 goaltender, Bishop knows he has to push himself even harder to attain that status and maintain it.
“It's just a piece of paper right now, you have to work hard,” Bishop said. “It doesn't guarantee anything, it's a piece of paper with a number on it. You have to go out and play hard, get the wins and prove your worth.''
Bishop also knows he will be in competition with Lindback, acquired by Tampa Bay in June from Nashville, for playing time. Lindback started off well this season, but stumbled a bit at midseason before getting back on track until he suffered a high ankle sprain on March 20.
Bishop said it will be no different than what he has been through in his career.
“It's a good opportunity for myself and him,” Bishop said. “The contract doesn't mean anything, so I don't look into any of that. You just have to go out and play your best when you are given the opportunity.”
In the small sample in his six starts, Yzerman said Bishop has been on par with the type of goaltender they thought they were acquiring.
“We watch the players and try to learn as much as you can about them, so I don't think there has been anything that has surprised us,” Yzerman said. “We knew the person we were getting and the type of goalie he is.”