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August 20, 2006 -- Larry Brooks, NY Post: SLAP SHOTS

THOSE wondering how the contract negotiations between Rick DiPietro and Garth Snow will be affected by their past relationship as goaltending partners shouldn't bother wasting the energy on speculation. For the fact is - surprise, surprise - that former backup netminder and current GM Snow will have little, if any, input.

Slap Shots has learned that talks between the Islanders and Group II free agent DiPietro have not yet even begun, with Snow following orders from I, Me, My Charles Wang not to engage in a dialogue with the goaltender's representatives until the owner returns at the end of the month from a lengthy summer vacation. (Neil Smith as well was not permitted to speak independently to DiPietro's people.)

This edict means that the team and DiPietro will have approximately two weeks in which to complete a deal, given Wang's policy that the Islanders will refuse to sign any of their own free agents if they are not under contract by the first day of training camp.

DiPietro, who suffered through an erratic 2005-06 but clearly is the Islanders' most important player, has two years remaining before he becomes eligible for unrestricted free agency. A summer ago, DiPietro appeared on the verge of signing a 15-year, $60M contract that had been proposed by ownership before the deal collapsed. Sources with knowledge of the situation strongly suspect that Gary Bettman put the kibosh on the contract.

The Islanders are currently at approximately $38M on a $44M season cap, without a legitimate NHL goaltender on the roster. DiPietro earned $2.5M last year.

It is, of course, impossible to guess at what the Islanders are thinking, because the only man whose thinking counts for anything within the organization is away for the month. It is also unknown whether DiPietro, who will turn 25 during training camp, will want to commit long-term at this point to such an unconventional operation.

Apparently, he will have a two-week window in which to make his decision. Who knows whether GM Snow will be allowed to speak during that time?
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