There have been more jokes about Rick DiPietro(notes) and his contract in the last two seasons than the total number of NHL games he's played in since 2008 for the New York Islanders. Looking to put an end to the jokes and doubts about his ability to stay healthy, DiPietro completed a rehab assignment with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League and will join the Islanders tonight as they begin a three-game Western trip in Colorado tonight with the possibility of him starting one of the games.
DiPietro proclaimed good health after playing two full games for Bridgeport over the weekend and taking part in a 90-minute practice with the Islanders on Monday. Despite Dwayne Roloson(notes) and Martin Biron(notes) covering the crease for the Islanders, the team needs to gauge DiPietro's health with NHL games before deciding on what to do with their goaltender situation.
Now that the Islanders goal crease is crowded with DiPietro, Roloson and Biron, let those trade rumors commence! Biron's been the one who's name has been thrown around because of his unrestricted free agent status this coming summer and an attractive salary that's even less now that we're halfway through the season. The only catch is that DiPietro will need to prove he can stay injury-free for Garth Snow to even consider making that move. If DiPietro's health is good, the Islanders can grab a draft pick or two by trading Biron to a team in need of a veteran netminder.
Biron didn't join the Islanders to be a permanent backup and from what he told Steven Marcus of Newsday, it sounds like he's itching for a move, especially if DiPietro is back to normal: (sub: required, Boo Jim Dolan!)
"If the end result is that something might happen,'' he said, "for it to happen sooner than later might be able to give a team and myself a chance to get in a rhythm again."
"I want to play,'' he said. "I want to have a chance to do what I did the last two years when I was in Philly, take the team to the playoffs, and play in the playoffs. There was no better feeling . . . That's what you play for, that's what you want to do.''
Despite once being the next great American goaltender, DiPietro is now in full career recovery mode and any future injury here on out makes that 15-year, $67.5 million contract he signed in 2006 more and more embarrassing for the Islanders. It's hard to say if this is his last chance with the Islanders seeing as how Charles Wang may not want to keep paying an oft-injured goaltender for another 11 years. DiPietro is still 28 years old, but for a goaltender who should be entering his prime years, he's regressed to the point where he's back at square one, trying to salvage what seemed to be a promising career not that long ago.