Islanders Still Dream of a Healthy Rick DiPietro

New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro (39) looks in dejection after a goal by Dallas Stars left wing Brenden Morrow (not pictured) during the second period of the hockey game between the New York Islanders and the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

Yesterday’s New York Post had a nice, long profile of New York Islander goalie Rick DiPietro.

DiPietro is perhaps best known for signing a 15-year contract in 2006, putting together two very strong seasons, and then spending the next three seasons being perpetually injured.

DiPietro is once again trying to get his career on track, to live up to the flashes of goaltending genius he’s shown over the years.

DiPietro’s fate has always been intertwined with that of goalie Roberto Luongo, since after drafting DiPietro, the Islanders traded away Luongo.

The thing of it is, DiPietro has never really lived up to his potential — at least at the NHL level. But that’s what makes him so attractive to fans. There’s always this idea that DiPietro will get healthy and be the goaltending savior the Islanders intended him to be.

Conversely, the shine is decidedly off of Luongo after his brutal performance in the Stanley Cup finals. Canucks fans saw everything Luongo has to offer and he came up short.

DiPietro has yet to show what he can do. He still has that glow of potential. He hasn’t been a success, but he has yet to demonstrably fail. DiPietro is a relatively clean canvas for Islander fans to dream upon.

Obviously, the Islanders are being cautious with DiPietro, as they have learned to be over the past three years. They claimed goalie Evgeni Nabokov off of waivers and seem to be closing in on getting Nabokov to actually play for them this season. If Nabokov does wind up playing for the Isles, he’ll be a nice insurance policy.

But as solid as Nabokov is, he lacks the mystique of DiPietro, who’s still a bit of an unknown quantity.

Should the Islanders have kept Luongo? Who’s to say? Luongo has certainly had a better NHL career, but we now have a pretty strong sense of just about everything Luongo can do under the pressure of the playoffs. But who knows what DiPietro can do? Who knows just how good he’ll be? You can’t help but wonder if DiPietro is better than Luongo, simply because we haven’t seen enough of DiPietro, after all of these years, to know for sure.

Looking at it from a cap management perspective, the Islanders probably shouldn’t have dialed DiPietro in for 15 years (although given how the team struggles to make the cap floor, DiPietro’s contract isn’t the worst thing in the world). But by giving him such a long contract, they made him a bit of a legend, and that’s why he always seems so intriguing. So many in the Islanders’ organization believe so much in DiPietro’s greatness, it’s hard to discount him.

DiPietro could be yet another Mike Milbury folly, but there’s also this nagging question of if he’s one of the few good moves Milbury ever made.

It’s the question Islander fans ask themselves every year.