Rick DiPietro Activated Off IR: Humorous or Helpful?

By Mark Donatiello

Rick DiPietro may go down as owner of the worst contract in the history of the NHL.  The oft-injured goalie is signed through 2021 at 4.5 million dollars per season as part of a 15-year debacle that started in 2006.

After two consecutive winning seasons as the starting goaltender for the New York Islanders, the former first overall pick in 2000 produced a 32-19-9 season in the first year of his monster deal.  Unfortunately, after a losing season in 2007-08, Rick DiPietro has played in just 47 games over the last four seasons.

Rick DiPietro, when healthy, has produced only mediocre numbers.  His career 2.82 goals against average and .903 save percentage are the end product of an extremely aggressive mistake.  The Islanders tried to lock up a franchise goalie with a short track record, and stumbled into one of the worst contracts in hockey history.  However, Rick DiPietro’s disappointing career goes well beyond his mediocrity on the ice.  DiPietro’s laundry list of injuries, including a broken jaw at the hands of the backup goaltender of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are what define him.

The Rick DiPietro injury saga continued this week when the Islanders activated Rick DiPietro from the injured reserve list.  The move has financial implications with the possibility of a lockout, but it also represents the state of the New York Islanders.  While Evgeni Nabokov emerged as the team’s starting goaltender last season, because of the length of his contract Rick DiPietro may still represent the future of the team.

At age 30 with an unmovable contract, what will the Islanders do with DiPietro going forward?  Can he be remotely productive?  Will he be the most expensive career-backup in hockey, if he can stay healthy long enough to be classified as one?

Right now, it seems Rick DiPietro will never be productive for the Islanders.   He’s now 30, and in ten seasons he’s tallied a minuscule 130 wins and just 315 games.  His cap hit helps hit the salary floor but DiPietro, even in a backup role, cannot be counted on to stay healthy.  The New York Islanders may be better served if 21-year-old goaltending prospect Anders Nilsson finds his way back onto the ice by season’s end.

At this point Islanders fans should simply embrace the humor of the Rick DiPietro situation.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, then finishing last in the Atlantic every year starts to get depressing.  The Islanders have the prospects to build a winning team.  Led by Jonathan Tavares, New York has a bright future if they can sort out their goaltending situation beyond Evgeni Nabokov.  Unfortunately, they’ll have to build around Rick DiPietro’s near-useless cap hit as well as one of the best young skaters in the game.

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