The New York Islanders have waived Rick DiPietro, initiating what may be the final chapter of a long, tragic saga with a player who was once seen as a franchise goaltender.
Newsday's Arthur Staple says the intent is to assign DiPietro to AHL Bridgeport, with Kevin Poulin coming up from Bridgeport. Michael Fornabaio, Sound Tigers beatwriter for the Connecticut Post, says Poulin was first off the ice this morning.
That's a swap long clamored for by Islanders fans, who have watched DiPietro struggle through injury after injury, rehab after rehab, escalating at the beginning of 2008-09. In the ensuing injury-ravaged years, his stats have routinely put him at or near the bottom of the league each season -- though the injuries have been so prevalent that 2010-11 was the only season during this stretch where he appeared in more than eight NHL games.
His last registered win was in December 2011, his last shutout in November 2010.
Given the injuries that really accelerated with a hip injury -- aggravated, in a form befitting this career tragedy, in an All-Star Game skills competition -- it's been an increasingly closed question whether the 31-year-old could ever regain the form necessary to be an NHL goaltender. Knee injuries emerged after rehab of the hip, and the persistent red flag of knee swelling indicated that his body might not be able to withstand the rigors of regular NHL duty, even if the skills might still lie somewhere within.
Stats and narrative aside, the most glaring observation about DiPietro's goaltending in recent seasons has been his labored side-to-side movement and struggles getting back up after going to the ice to make a save: They simply aren't at NHL speed. No doubt there is inner drive and the "play through pain" ethic that keeps him going, but neither is enough to succeed in an NHL crease.
The Isles clearly haven't shown much confidence in him this season, riding 37-year-old Evgeni Nabokov and inserting DiPietro only for three occasions amid back-to-backs. (He's given up 12 goals in those three games, with a .855 save percentage.)
Is this the end of the line for DiPietro? Not likely. Can more frequent work in Bridgeport prove anything, or provide him the opportunity to regain a semblance of NHL form? Also not likely, but still theoretically possible.
For now, it's an opportunity for Poulin, a pausing sigh of relief for Islanders fans, and another chapter in the tragic fall of DiPietro. A goalie who, remember, was once good, and committed to a team when few would, but has suffered a series of misfortunes as if Faust is following him around the streets dressed in a Flyers jersey.