Mega-pact has NHL abuzz

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:07 AM ET

After watching him lock up goaltender Rick DiPietro to a seemingly ridiculous contract through the 2020-21 season, some hockey people were questioning whether New York Islanders owner Charles Wang should be locked up.

As in the looney bin.

"They've lost their minds," one NHL general manager said last night.

"They are (bleeping) nuts."

Many around the NHL were in a similar state of shock yesterday while attempting to digest the news that Wang had signed DiPietro to an unprecedented 15-year deal worth $67.5 million US.

Maybe they should have checked first with Maple Leafs newcomer Michael Peca, who had an inkling such a transaction might occur on Long Island.

Back in 2001, Peca was traded to the Islanders from the Buffalo Sabres and immediately was offered a nine-year contract by Wang. The veteran centre turned down the deal because of insurance concerns and settled on a five-year pact instead.

"Wang is a pretty loyal guy," Peca said. "If he likes someone he'll lock him up long term.

"I'm not surprised it played out this way. Ricky's a great guy to have on your team. They tried to get him locked up last year but (there were complications). Not this time."

You would think the Islanders would know better, given the organization's history of having such long-term deals go awry.

Five years ago, Wang handed enigmatic forward Alexei Yashin a 10-year, $87.5-million deal. Now the Islanders can't trade him because no team wants to pick up the huge contract of a guy who regularly goes missing at playoff time.

"Before we hear, 'Oh my God, what a terrible thing, look what they've done,' just remember that we had made the playoffs three times in a row before last year," Wang said, attempting to justify the DiPietro deal. "It was the Pecas and Yashins who helped us do that. I can't speak for other teams but we are trying to build a foundation here with guys who want to be here."

It was an early birthday present for DiPietro, who will turn 25 next week.

"It's an exciting day," said DiPietro, the first overall pick in the 2000 entry draft. "I had hoped and dreamed of being an Islander for life. There is comfort in knowing I'm their guy."

NHL vice-president Bill Daly found no fault with the contract after skimming over the deal yesterday.

"There definitely are risks associated with long-term contracts, especially ones that are as long term as this one," Daly said via e-mail. "I have to assume the Islanders understand those risks. I don't believe you'll see this type of contract become a trend around the league, though. I think it will prove to be far more of an exception than the norm."


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