Commitment to DiPietro clogs up the net
FEBRUARY 1, 2001
For Sale: Veteran goaltender. Experienced in playoffs. Excellent
condition. Perfect for backup role. Best offer.
Mike Milbury this week sent a fax with basically that information on
it. John Vanbiesbrouck is available if anyone wants him. And if not,
could he interest you in capable backup in Wade Flaherty? Rookie Rick
DiPietro is staying with the team for the rest of the season.
With three goalies now on the roster, one of the two incumbents has
to go. It would be easy enough to send Flaherty to the team's IHL
affiliate in Chicago. But Milbury figured to give Vanbiesbrouck, a
pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, an
opportunity to hook up with a playoff team for possibly one last run
of his career. He spoke to Vanbiesbrouck and his agent, Lloyd
Friedland, about it this week.
"They said they'd get back to me no later than after the (All-Star)
break," Milbury said. "So, I'll wait for their response." But he
didn't have to wait long. Vanbiesbrouck, following a solid 36-save
performance in a 3-2 win over the Devils Wednesday night, said
his "preference" was to remain with the Islanders. But he did say he
would take the weekend to consider his options.
"We'll see what happens," he said.
Friedland said Vanbiesbrouck is "torn" and that he needed to talk
more with his Vanbiesbrouck about the situation. "He came here for a
purpose, and he's always tried to finish a job he starts," Friedland
said. "There's been no decision made. He's committed to playing for
this team right now."
Coach Butch Goring said of Vanbiesbrouck he was "happy to have him
here" and said the situation of having the young DiPietro work with
the experienced Vanbiesbrouck was the best option. But no one knows
for sure what is to come of this. "We'll see what happens after the
All-Star break," he said.
What is sure to happen is DiPietro, the first overall pick at last
June's draft, will see a good deal of time while the Islanders look
to develop him in the NHL spotlight without much pressure to win.
"I don't know a better time for the kid than right now," he said. "He
looked comfortable enough and really the games, at this point barring
a minor miracle, are about development. He's a guy that's a key part
of our plan to go forward so why not give him the chance to develop."
With another goal against the Devils, Brad Isbister has five goals in
seven games since returning from a broken jaw. His 17 on the season
is tied with Mariusz Czerkawski for the team lead. He has 27 points
in 36 games this season. Not bad for the pseudo-center who has played
out of his natural left wing position for most of the season.
The power play has produced 13 goals in the past 12 games and has
scored at least one goal in 10 of those past 12. The unit, which went
through some terrible droughts early in the season and dropped to
29th overall in the league, has moved up to 23rd.
Vanbiesbrouck's win over the Devils Wednesday night was his first
since Jan. 13 (vs. Pittsburgh) and only this third since Dec. 19.
The Islanders should not concentrate so much on allowing
Vanbiesbrouck to seek a trade, and instead look to sign the veteran
to a contract extension at least through next season. At 37,
Vanbiesbrouck has shown he can still play on a regular basis and his
presence in the locker room is invaluable to a youngster such as
Vanbiesbrouck is in the final year of his contract that will pay him
$3.5 million this season, $1.2 million of which is being paid by the
Flyers as per the trade agreement from last June.
The Islanders would undoubtedly look to sign the Beezer for far less
than his current contract, perhaps around $1.5 million. That's
something Vanbiesbrouck won't likely earn anywhere else. In truth,
both sides need each other.
Vanbiesbrouck could prolong his 16-year career at least another
season or two and take that many big checks to the bank. The
Islanders could do worse than him as a backup and mentor for the
emerging DiPietro. Vanbiesbrouck bought a house on Long Island and
lives there full-time with his family. To uproot them again is not
something he wishes to consider.
Expect the Beezer to stay. Unless, of course, a bona fide contender
for the Stanley Cup -- something Vanbiesbrouck has never won --
wishes to bring him along for a ride. Then you can expect
Vanbiesbrouck to accept a trade and then look to re-sign with the
Islanders this summer.
Center Jason Krog (separated shoulder) was returned to Springfield
(AHL) and is back in the lineup. He could be called up after the All-
Star break once he has a few games under his belt.
Center Oleg Kvasha (sprained knee) has resumed skating and will
likely be back in the lineup following the break.
Steve Webb (sprained knee) is out until mid-February.
Branislav Mezei (separated shoulder) is out another four weeks.
Kevin Haller (hernia) and Mats Lindgren (shoulder) are both out for