So I was never a fan of the 15-year contract for obvious reasons (insane commitment, likelihood of injuries -- possibly serious ones -- to a butterfly goalie, etc.). But there's one common misconception among non-Islanders followers about the decision Charles Wang made to lock in a "low" rate on his #1 goaltender, who expressed a desire to stay on Long Island until retirement:
Wang did not sign an "injury-plagued" goaltender. He signed a goaltender who was about to begin suffering a Mr. Bean-like run of mishaps and injuries. The timing is incredible. So once again, for the historical record:
Since then, he’s suffered two successive concussions 12 days apart in games against Canadiens and Rangers late in the 2006-07 season that kept him out of the lineup for most of the stretch drive and playoffs. He had left hip surgery in the 2007 off-season.
He suffered a right knee sprain that sidelined him for three games in late 2007, then a right hip injury during the All-Star Skills competition in January 2008. He didn’t finish the season, undergoing hip surgery in mid-March. After he recovered from that procedure, he had his right knee ’scoped in June, leading to the meniscus job in the fall.
Aside from the concussions, which you can never anticipate (until they've started recurring), I figured injuries like this wouldn't pile up until DiPietro's 30s. I figured at worst, his style wrecks his hips and he spends the last half of this deal as an injured goalkeeper/consultant. Best-case, he's mostly injury-free until a decline in the final few years (age 37-40) of his deal, when the Josephs, Roys and Haseks of the world broke down.
Nothing indicates DiPietro's performance "decline" has begun now, of course. We may even benefit that he had his hips fixed -- and rehabbed -- now, in his prime, rather than later when the body is, shall we say, less forgiving (ouch, had to bend to scratch my shin there). But the currently unresponsive knee is a little more worrisome, and even if he rebounds to top form next year, this injury history will linger in the back of our minds.
Regardless, by all known info at the time, Wang signed a healthy 25-year-old (a week shy) goaltender. And it's only by misfortune that the injuries you'd reasonably expect a goalie to have over the course of his career began happening within two years afterward.
The Islanders -- with DiPietro's collaboration -- have mishandled much of his health since then, beginning with the too-soon return from the first concussion. But one thing they didn't do was buy damaged goods. For some reason, I just felt like clarifying that.