Rick DiPietro placed on waivers

Updated: February 22, 2013, 3:35 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

It appears the Rick DiPietro era is coming to a close on Long Island.

The New York Islanders placed the goaltender on waivers Friday, the team announced on its website.

Although logic would suggest the move is the first step toward a potential buyout for DiPietro, general manager Garth Snow declined to reveal his plans.

"We haven't given that any consideration at this point," Snow said when reached by phone Friday afternoon. "I'm not gonna speculate what the future may hold."

DiPietro is expected to report to the team's AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, assuming he clears waivers Saturday at noon. Although a team could, in theory, claim him, both his hefty salary and abysmal performance this season make that scenario unlikely.

Snow said he wants to see DiPietro improve his game down in the minors.

"The decision was made primarily as a first step to get him back to the form he was in before he started getting all these injuries," Snow said. "It's a situation where we want Rick to have every chance to get back to that success."

DiPietro started the season with a 0-3-0 record and posted dreadful numbers -- a 4.10 goals-against average and .855 save percentage -- but his albatross of a contract remains the team's more pressing issue.

The oft-injured DiPietro's 15-year, $67.5 million contract -- which pays him $4.5 million annually through 2021 -- is regarded as one of the league's worst.

The Islanders could choose to exercise a transition buyout on the 31-year-old this summer. Each team was provided two of these in the new collective bargaining agreement, to be used in the summers of 2013 and 2014. The team could also elect to employ the traditional buyout rule, which would allow the team to retain his cap hit.

That may be the most desirable option for the club, which has barely hovered above the cap floor in recent seasons.

Until the Islanders decide whether or not to buy him out -- the team has previously used buyouts on Alexei Yashin and Brendan Witt -- the club will pay both his salary and be charged for his cap hit.

Per the rules of the new CBA, DiPietro will still carry a $3.6 million (prorated) hit on the team's salary cap this year.

Earlier this month, the team acquired veteran netminder Tim Thomas in a trade with the Bruins in what boiled down to a simple salary-cap transaction. The Islanders added Thomas' $5 million cap hit and won't have to pay him a single dollar in salary since he has no intention of playing or reporting to the team. Thomas said during the summer that he was taking the year off from hockey to spend time with his family.

DiPietro, a former first overall draft pick, was upset when informed of the team's decision, Snow said.

"He was disappointed, like any player would be in that situation," Snow said.

With DiPietro headed down, 22-year-old prospect Kevin Poulin will likely be recalled from the minors to back up veteran Evgeni Nabokov in net.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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