While attending a rally in support of the Lighthouse Project Tuesday, Islanders general manager Garth Snow addressed perhaps his most significant offseason move - the signing of goaltender Martin Biron - and what that means for franchise goaltender Rick DiPietro.
Snow did not make any big splashes in free agency this summer, but he made sure to bolster the goaltending. The Islanders signed veteran Dwayne Roloson in June, but did not stop there. To further fortify the position, the Islanders also signed Biron, who played 55 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season.
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Given that DiPietro has undergone multiple surgeries since signing his 15-year, $67.5-million contract, Biron's signing provides some insurance in case DiPietro's health continues to be an issue.
"We learned a lesson from what happened last year," Snow said. "Obviously, eyebrows were raised when we added Martin Biron to the mix after already signing Roloson, but it's an opportunity to strengthen that position."
The Islanders were forced to play virtually all of last season with a pair of untested goaltenders in Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis after DiPietro had to undergo knee surgery after playing in only five games. Though both MacDonald and Danis performed well at times given their lack of NHL experience, neither is considered legitimate starters.
If DiPietro comes back healthy, the Islanders will have three candidates for the starting job.
"I welcome that problem. It's a good problem to have," Snow said. "Obviously, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, but I can't wait to have that problem."
Having two No. 1-caliber goaltenders in addition to DiPietro serves another purpose. With more depth at the position, Snow hopes to reduce the pressure on DiPietro to rush his rehabilitation and try to return sooner than necessary.
"It's going to allow Rick to take his time and make sure he's 100 percent ready to play when he's ready to take the ice," Snow said.
Snow said he has talked to DiPietro recently and that he is doing well in his rehab. When asked about a timetable, Snow was consistent with what the organization has maintained the whole summer.
"He'll start skating this month and be in training camp," Snow said.
Regardless of whether DiPietro returns to form, Snow's moves have provided the team with options. If his progress is stalled or he suffers another setback, the Islanders have capable replacements in net. If DiPietro comes back, Snow always can move Biron to a team that might have an urgent need for a quality goaltender.
Although Snow was evasive when asked if there will be an open competition for the starting goaltender job, the Islanders' offseason moves indicate that DiPietro will not be simply handed the position.
"We're going to get through training camp," Snow said. "And as the cliche goes, deal with that when it comes."