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Islanders sign DiPietro to 15-year deal
By IRA PODELL, AP Sports Writer
Sep 12, 2006 - 11:51:00 AM

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UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Rick DiPietro re-signed with the New York Islanders on Tuesday, agreeing to a record 15-year deal that will pay the No. 1 goalie $67.5 million.

The Islanders scheduled an afternoon news conference to officially announce the contract that would keep DiPietro in the fold until 2022, when he would be 40.

"We've been working at it all summer," DiPietro's agent Paul Krepelka told The Associated Press.

The deal, first reported by Newsday, is the longest in NHL history, topping the 10-year, $87.5 million contract the Islanders gave enigmatic center Alexei Yashin in 2001.

That was one of the contracts that sent NHL salaries soaring and led to the salary cap in the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout last year. It also saddled New York with a player that is nearly impossible to move and who takes up a big chunk of the team's $44 million maximum payroll.

DiPietro's deal is believed to be second only in length in North American sports to the 25-year pact Magic Johnson signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981.

"Clubs are free to make their own decisions within the confines laid out in the collective bargaining agreement and other applicable league rules," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. "Some decisions turn out well, others not so well.

"Time will tell whether this will be a good decision or a bad one for the Islanders."

Krepelka said that both Islanders owner Charles Wang and new general manager Garth Snow, DiPietro's backup last season, were involved in the negotiations. Deals of various lengths were discussed, and once the Islanders set forth the type of cap structure they wanted for DiPietro, the staggering 15-year-deal was agreed to.

DiPietro was a restricted free agent this summer and couldn't be unrestricted for another two years. The deal will pay him $4.5 million per season, placing him eighth among goalies.

The top pick in the 2000 draft was 30-24-5 with a 3.02 goals-against average in 63 games last season with the Islanders, who missed the playoffs after three straight appearances.

It is the second big contract handed out to a goalie in two days as Nashville re-signed Tomas Vokoun to a four-year extension on Monday that will pay him $22.8 million.

Chicago's Nikolai Khabibulin will be the league's highest-paid goalie this season at $6.75 million.

DiPietro and Wang talked about a 15-year deal last summer after the NHL lockout when DiPietro expressed that he wanted to spend his entire career on Long Island.

But hurdles regarding insurance over the course of the contract killed those plans, and DiPietro agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million.

Those were worked out this time around.

Both sides were pressed to come to a new agreement quickly as the Islanders open training camp at the end of the week in Nova Scotia. Wang has a policy that players who aren't signed in time for camp won't play during the season.

"That was a concern," Krepelka said.

DiPietro, exactly a week away from his 25th birthday, became the first goalie ever chosen with the No. 1 pick in the NHL draft five years ago, after spending just one year at Boston University.

Wang's direct involvement in these negotiations fell into line with the owner's new front office by committee.

It was this type of management structure that led to the firing of Neil Smith, who was let go just weeks after he took the job in the offseason and months before the Islanders were to play a game under him.

Smith balked at the delegation of authority and the system initiated by Wang, and was replaced by Snow who retired from his playing career with the Islanders on July 18.

Copyright 2007 - MOP Squad Sports

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