BUFFALO -- Rick DiPietro, long the signature member of the Islanders, was placed on waivers Friday, leaving open the possibility that the No. 1 overall pick in the 2000 draft has played his last game for the team.
With eight years and $36 million remaining on the 15-year, $67.5-million deal DiPietro signed before the 2006-07 season, there's little chance the goaltender will be claimed on waivers before noon Saturday. Either Saturday or Sunday, DiPietro will report to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Barring an injury to another Isles goaltender, there are no plans to bring DiPietro back this season.
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"He was obviously disappointed, as any player would be in his situation," general manager Garth Snow said of DiPietro.
The decision to put DiPietro (0-3-0 with a 4.09 goals-against average and .855 save percentage this season) on waivers and send him to the AHL came about after the goaltender's most recent start, a 3-1 loss to the Senators in Ottawa on Tuesday. Coach Jack Capuano declined to say anything about his backup goaltender's performance; he also had declined to talk about his play after a 6-4 loss to the Hurricanes on Feb. 11.
It was clear after Tuesday's game that the coaching staff has lost faith in DiPietro, who has been healthy this season but unable to come close to regaining the form that earned him the unique long-term deal owner Charles Wang bestowed upon him in the summer of 2006.
At that time, DiPietro was 24 and such a rising star that he had been in goal for the U.S. Olympic team in Torino for the Winter Games. A few months after that, he signed the deal with Wang and Snow, who had taken over as the Islanders' general manager after sharing goaltending duties with DiPietro for the 2003-04 season.
DiPietro now is 31 and has played only 50 games the last five seasons combined. He has had multiple knee surgeries and a hip surgery, had a plate put in his face to heal facial fractures and most recently suffered a concussion and needed season-ending sports hernia surgery in December 2011.
He came into this season as the clear backup for Nabokov, but even that arrangement is not working out. If the Islanders wished to buy out DiPietro this coming offseason, it would cost them $24 million, unlikely given the team's red ink the past few seasons and Wang's personal affection for him.
"We haven't thought about anything like that right now," Snow said.
Poulin, who entered Friday night's game with Bridgeport with a 15-13-3 record, 3.16 GAA and .906 save percentage, is likely to make his season debut for the Islanders Sunday against the Hurricanes at the Coliseum. But DiPietro still could back up Nabokov for Saturday's game against the Sabres.
After that, DiPietro will make his first non-conditioning appearance in the minors since 2003. What comes after that in the long, strange saga of Rick DiPietro is anybody's guess.