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With Redden/Gomez Buyouts, Should Islanders Shut Down DiPietro?

The Rangers and Canadiens didn't want to risk an injury preventing buyouts of Wade Redden and Scott Gomez. What greater health risk is there than Rick DiPietro?

DiPietro in a suit? More common than you would think.
DiPietro in a suit? More common than you would think.
Bruce Bennett

Well if it's not about Lubomir Visnovsky, it'll probably be about Rick DiPietro, right?

With the new CBA comes the "amnesty" or compliance buyouts during the summer. But a new twist this week is that Scott Gomez and Wade Redden are headed for buyouts before the start of the season.

Both players have such heinous contracts that their respective teams were prepared to not let them play anywhere this season rather than risk an injury that would make a buyout impossible over the summer. Rather than have them sit at home for the season, the NHL and NHLPA came to an agreement to allow a buyout now and give those players a chance to find work, for a much cheaper salary and cap hit, on another team.

Say what you will about Gomez and Redden, but they don't have nearly the injury history that should have worried the Rangers and Habs into sending them home for the season. Meanwhile, the most likely buyout candidate for the Islanders is DiPietro, precisely because he's never been the same since the injuries began.

We've been over his injury history, we know it by heart by now. Since being shut down towards the end of the 2007-08 season when his injuries really began to pile up, DiPietro has:

  • not finished a season healthy;
  • not had a 40-game continuous period in which he has stayed healthy;
  • has not reached double digits in games played in four of the five ensuing seasons;
  • compiled stats among the worst of any goaltender in the league.

Take that history, add in that during the lockout he either got hurt (a report DiPietro strongly denied) or did not perform well enough for his German second division team to justify more than two games (neither scenario is reassuring), and you have real concerns that he's on the roster entering this season. Even more worrisome is that there are only two goalies at camp right now, him and Evgeni Nabokov.

His salary is still tied for 11th highest among goaltenders. This season he will technically make more then Martin Brodeur.

With that kind of commitment, DiPietro still wants to play and even wants to make amends for all the time he's spent on the shelf. As he told the Post last week:

“I feel like I owe everyone, I feel like I owe myself,” he said. “There’s a lot of goals I set for myself personally that I’m looking to achieve.

“With all the negative things that have happened, it’s really given me an opportunity to sit back and really see how lucky and fortunate I am,” DiPietro said. “You go through these ups and downs, bumps in the road, they only make you stronger.”

DiPietro said he hopes that translates into on-ice success. He expects to return to form if he can stay healthy, obviously a huge if.

“I made a commitment to Charles and [general manager] Garth [Snow] that I was going to do everything in my power every single day to make sure that we were successful, that this organization was successful, and we would eventually win a Stanley Cup,” he said. “I don’t like to be a man that doesn’t stick to his word.”

But can the Islanders afford to let him try ... again?

Simply, if I was Garth Snow, DiPietro would not be at camp. It's too risky.

Unless the Islanders are convinced he'll retire if this latest comeback doesn't pan out -- and we're 0 for 4 so far -- there is no reason to take a chance on his health. With the Isles and DiPietro's luck, being unable to use the amnesty buyout because he got hurt again is exactly the kind of thing you would expect to happen. Anders Nilsson and Kevin Poulin are both in the AHL and ready to split a 48-game season with Nabokov.

If DiPietro still believes he can play, let him go out and try to get a contract from another team, probably in another league. The Islanders have done everything right by DiPietro over the years. I can't believe there is another team in the league that would have given him as many chances as the Islanders have. If anything, they were too kind by giving DiPietro the benefit of the doubt when he said he was healthy (but wasn't "all the way back").

The new CBA and transition rules squeezes some players, but at least now Redden and Gomez will have a chance to find a place to play. The Islanders should do the same with DiPietro.