One day after No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick returned to the net from a 59-game absence because of a groin-muscle injury, the Kings acquired goalie Ben Bishop from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for goalie Peter Budaj, prospect Erik Cernak and two draft picks Sunday.
The Kings also received a fifth-round pick.
Conventional wisdom suggested the Kings desperately needed scoring help, perhaps a productive left wing with playoff experience, going into the NHL trade deadline Wednesday. The Kings had the league’s 23rd-ranked offense going into Sunday.
The Kings were the league’s fifth-best defensive team.
“It’s not that complicated,” Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said. “You’re never sure how well a guy who’s been out this long is going to respond. Is he going to have his ‘A’ game? Comebacks can go either way. In terms of Bishop, he was the No. 1 target.
“He’s not an insurance policy. He needs to play.”
Bishop, 30, is 16-12-3 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage this season. He lost his starting job to Andrei Vasilevskiy last spring and there were rumors the Lightning would trade him before his two-season, $11.9 million deal ended and he became an unrestricted free agent.
Bottom line: Lombardi wanted two goalies he could rely on down the stretch. He preferred the Quick-Bishop tandem to the Quick-Budaj duo after watching Quick and Bishop work together in the World Cup of Hockey in his role as GM of Team USA.
“I think it’s probably safe to say going down the stretch here we feel we better have a No. 1 in goal every night,” Lombardi said. “Peter did a good job for us, stopped what he was supposed to stop. (But) I wanted to make sure I had a No. 1 in there every night.”
Budaj, 34, was 27-20-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage plus a career-high seven shutouts in 53 games in place of Quick, who was hurt in the first period of the season-opening game Oct. 12 at San Jose.