The Isles Between The Pipes
Let's just start by asking, 'What's next?'
Rick DiPietro has been sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks with a facial fracture and knee swelling. The fracture comes from the heavy punch delivered by Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender, Brent Johnson in a fight between the two net-minders on Wednesday night. The knee swelling is something that has been pestering DiPietro ever since he was forced to miss the vast majority of the previous two seasons.
This injury forces Kevin Poulin to remain with the New York Islanders along with Nathan Lawson, who is expected to return from injury in the near future. The team does own the rights to Evgeni Nabokov, but he simply just does not want to play here - so he is no help.
Instead of looking to explore other veteran options, GM Garth Snow has signed AHL back-up Joel Martin to a two-way contract. Chris Botta of Islanders Point Blank has tweeted that he is expected to play the back-up role to Kevin Poulin until Nathan Lawson makes his way back onto the roster.
For more on DiPietro, head over to my post at The Hockey Writers. I simply summed up DP's current season before the injury was announced. It has since been updated but the timing just couldn't define irony any better. If you read it, you'll understand. http://thehockeywriters.com/rick-dipietros-season-thus-far/
But what is Garth Snow going to do over the summer? Poulin, who has been exceptional at times, has displayed that some more time in the AHL would probably be best for his development. He's not far away from becoming a legitimate NHL goaltender, but he shouldn't be rushed into something he isn't ready to handle on his own; especially without a veteran behind him. One should hope that the Islanders are not considering Poulin and DiPietro as the only two goalies heading into next season.
So will Snow find another UFA goaltender on the market like he did with Roloson? It might be tough after the current Nabokov ordeal. Which ever way he does it, Snow has to find a solution to his problem between the pipes. DiPietro has only managed to play in 21 games this year, which is possibly more than some predicted. But what if he only makes the same amount of starts next year? Those aren't No. 1 numbers. Is Kevin Poulin really capable of making 50-60 starts next year after being called up and down from the minors this season?
The organization is going to stand behind their 15-year man and support him through his rehabilitation until the doctors deem that Rick DiPietro can no longer play hockey - and they should. Not only because of the contract, but because his career should not be determined by an owner and manager. But Snow and Wang have to acknowledge that it will be next to impossible for this team to take the next step if the crease is paraded like a circus all year long.
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