Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop returned to the ice last week for the first time after rehabbing a high ankle and shin sprain that he suffered in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bishop, 29, told ESPN.com he's feeling better and is preparing to represent Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey this September in Toronto.
Bishop, who was a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, helped lead the Lightning back to the conference finals, but he suffered a left-leg injury and missed the remainder of that series, which Pittsburgh won in seven games before going on to beat the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup finals.
Bishop's backup, Andrei Vasilevskiy, was solid the rest of the way and proved he could play at that level. Bishop has one year and $5.95 million remaining on his contract. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017. Meanwhile, Vasilevskiy, 21, agreed this offseason to a three-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $3.5 million annually.
At this point, Bishop is focused on his health, the World Cup and being ready for the 2016-17 NHL season. The Denver native did not discuss rumors about his status with the Lightning -- there has been talk he would be traded to free up cap space, especially given Vasilevskiy's play in the playoffs -- but he did talk about captain Steven Stamkos re-signing with Tampa for eight years.
ESPN.com: First, earlier in the week you revealed your Team USA mask for the World Cup of Hockey. Tell me about the mask.
Ben Bishop: It turned out really well. DaveArt [David Gunnarsson] actually does it over in Sweden and we've had this glow-in-the-dark theme going [with Lightning mask] the last few years, so we might as well stick with it and it turned out really good.
ESPN.com: How long did it take?
Bishop: He can do it pretty quick, but there was no rush with this one just because we had time. He can do it in a couple of weeks if you really need him to.
ESPN.com: How did you come up with the design idea?
Ben Bishop: We usually just email back and forth but he's the artist, so I let his mind do most of the work.
ESPN.com: How is your leg injury and where are you with your offseason workouts?
Ben Bishop: It's going good. The leg is feeling better and it's getting stronger every day. I'm getting ready to start skating soon ... and get back on the ice and doing that side of things. We have about a month until we go, so I'll start off slow and pick it up in the next month and be ready for training camp for the World Cup.
ESPN.com: Now that you're focused on your preparation for the World Cup, what does this opportunity mean to you?
Ben Bishop: It's a great opportunity. Obviously, it's not new but it's a little bit newer with the World Cup coming back and I think everybody is excited that it's going to be on ESPN. It's a whole different feel to it; it's not another NHL season, or the Olympics, it's a brand new thing coming out again and I think everybody is excited. Everybody's going to be fresh, it's going to be good hockey and it's in a great market in Toronto. There are so many good things coming out of it and I'm excited to be a part of it.
ESPN.com: At least on paper, Team USA already has an identity, so going into a tournament like the World Cup, what do you think of the team's chances?
Ben Bishop: We obviously have a great roster. When you look around, they did a pretty cool thing with Team Europe and Team North America, and that will add much more excitement to the tournament. Every team is going to be stacked and good and I don't think there's going to be any bad games out there, so it's going to be fun. It's going to be great for the fans. It's going to be exciting hockey. It's at the beginning of the year, so everybody's fresh and ready to go. It's going to be high-tempo and I'm just looking forward to being a part of it.
ESPN.com: Stamkos re-signed with Tampa for eight years, so what does that mean for his teammates and the organization?
Ben Bishop: It's exciting. He's worked his butt off ever since he got to Tampa. He's been the face of that franchise since he got there and he's rode through some of the tough times, and he's been through some of the high times. He's our captain and I'm really glad that they were able to get something worked out. He's able to come back and hopefully be able to maybe retire a Lightning. He's done a lot for that organization and it's nice to see him stick with it.
ESPN.com: In today's era, there aren't many players who play with one organization for their entire career. So what do you think of Stamkos having that opportunity in Tampa?
Ben Bishop: I think it's great. It's kind of a give-and-take thing. You look at Stammer, maybe he took a little less money to stay there and he likes the organization, he likes everything about Tampa. Both sides have to be willing to work towards something like that to happen, but I think it's really cool. You look at Shane Doan in Phoenix and how many years he's been there, it's just nice to see guys stick with it. You have to have both sides working for the same goal and obviously they're both tremendous players. I mean, who doesn't want to have Steven Stamkos on your team? I'm just glad he's on ours.
ESPN.com: What has your offseason been like?
Ben Bishop: I'm getting better, training and working out. I've been doing some physical therapy, just getting healthy again. I'm at that age where there's lots of weddings, so it seems like there's a wedding every weekend that you've got to go to, but it's fun. It's fun to relax a little bit and see some family. Like I said, I'm going to start skating and turn it back up a notch and get ready for the World Cup.