Islanders Could Have a Logjam in Goal

July 23, 2009

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Jeff Ponder

Islanders Could Have a Logjam in Goal

The New York Islanders have made a plunge into the free-agent goalie market this summer, locking up Dwayne Roloson on July 1st and Martin Biron on July 22nd.  This seems like a good tandem for a team that faced its fair share of struggles last season.  There is just one little problem that the Islanders seem to be forgetting; they own a 15-year, $67.5 million goaltender that was once considered the “franchise goaltender.”

Rick DiPietro, an American-born goaltender who was selected to the 2008 NHL All-Star Game, played in just 5 games last season.  Since receiving his long contract extension, DiPietro has played in just 53% of his team's games.  The injury list piles on and on for DiPietro:  groin injury, neck strain, extended headache problems, knee injuries, and hip and knee surgeries.  When asked about all of his unsuccessful recovery, DiPietro was very outspoken.

“I've seen quite a few doctors who are pretty positive about the future. That's the whole point of this season is to make sure I'm 100% and ready to fulfill my contract,” stated DiPietro back in February of this year.  “Worst thing in the world you can do is sit in a rehab center and try to get healthy. Mentally, I can't take much more of this.”

Roloson, signed away from the Edmonton Oilers, received a 2-year, $5 million contract from the Islanders.  He was brought in as insurance to DiPietro, who is expected to begin skating in August and to be ready by training camp.  Roloson, who will be turning 40 on October 12th, said that he is ready to play alongside DiPietro and that he expects “everything is going to be great.”

The Islanders then threw a curveball to Islanders fans and media on Wednesday when they signed former Flyer Martin Biron to a 1-year, $1.4 million contract.  Islanders general manager and former NHL goaltender Garth Snow tried making peace with the signing on Wednesday.

“Adding Marty gives us three bona-fide number one goalies,” Snow stated.  “We learned about the importance of stability in our line-up from last year and he now allows us to have another quality starter.”

Maybe Snow is just partial to goalies.  But what does this mean for DiPietro?  The signing of Biron could mean that he could not be ready by the intended time, or that the Islanders do not want to rush his return.  If DiPietro is able to come back this season, what will become of Roloson and Biron?  Both players would have to clear waivers before being sent to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the AHL.  Another option would be using Biron as trade bait with another team.  If another NHL team is unhappy with their goaltending situation at any time, Biron would be a perfect quick fix with his 1-year contract and fairly low salary.

The bottom line is that the Islanders are withholding information somewhere.  They would not want to carry three NHL goalies on their roster at all times, so the obvious answer is that DiPietro will simply not be ready by training camp.  But if DiPietro cannot return any time soon, the Islanders may need to consider signing Biron to a longer contract.

The Islanders have a lot of adversity to face.  Watching the Long Island team scramble in goal after signing a franchise net-minder to a long-term contract may be a lesson that every other NHL team has learned.  Its a shame its too late for the Islanders.

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