Our advice for Rick DiPietro? Take the rest of the season off

January, 16, 2009
We should get an update in the next day or two on goaltender Rick DiPietro as whispers continue to swirl that his season is over.

The key thing is to make sure the New York Islanders get him healthy in time for the last season of his deal -- 2020-21.

OK, cheap shot aside, one has to be concerned if you're in any way connected to the Islanders. Two and half years into a 15-year, $67.5-million contract, the franchise goalie has already missed the end of the 2007-08 season with a hip injury that needed surgery and has been limited to five games this season thanks to knee and groin problems that also required knee surgery.

Suddenly, what seemed like a lock for Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics is very much in doubt. Unless DiPietro has a remarkable comeback, the No. 1 job will fall to either Ryan Miller or Tim Thomas.

In our humble opinion, the situation is clear. DiPietro is 27 years old. The team is in last place in the NHL. In the off chance the Islanders are actually thinking of bringing him back later this season, here's some unsolicited advice from the cheap seats: Shut him down. Have him sit for the rest of the season, make sure he gets healthy for next season and aim for the lottery pick.

Given the signing of Wade Dubielewicz on Thursday, that's probably already crossed the mind of the Islanders' brain trust. Reached by ESPN.com on Thursday night, Isles GM Garth Snow would not comment on DiPietro at this point, although he hinted we should hear something soon enough.

One thing is clear -- the Isles are already looking to the future. Rookies Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo are looking like they belong. But there's got to be more youth injected into this lineup going forward, and we know that is indeed the plan. What better silver lining to another lost season than adding John Tavares or Victor Hedman?

In the meantime, the bad news isn't limited to the on-ice product.

Islanders owner Charles Wang is growing mighty frustrated with the lack of traction with the political levels to seal a deal on a project that would rebuild Nassau Coliseum and transform the surrounding Uniondale area. So much so that the announcement of an exhibition game against the Los Angeles Kings in Kansas City -- where a new rink was built last year -- is being seen by some as Wang's first threat.

We're not so sure the NHL is thrilled with the idea of hockey in Kansas City despite the new rink. But we wonder if Wang hasn't had enough and whether he won't get a call from BlackBerry billionaire Jim Balsillie?

The Hamilton Islanders, anyone?

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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