The Vancouver Canucks have hit a roadblock with goaltender Michael DiPietro. Due to mismanagement of his development over the past few seasons, his agent believes it may be best for the two sides to part ways. (from ‘Canucks: Michael DiPietro’s agent believes club ‘dropped the ball’ on client’s development’, The Province, July 27, 2022). Despite Vancouver now being under a new management group, the bridge looks to be burned, with a trade looking like the best solution.
How Things Got This Bad with DiPietro & the Canucks
The relationship between the Canucks and DiPietro has been slowly breaking ever since the 2018-19 season. That year, he was called up from the Ontario Hockey League and unfairly thrust into a game against the San Jose Sharks, where he allowed seven goals on 24 shots. Ever since that game, he has played in just two NHL contests, having only started one of them.
Then you have the pandemic season of 2020-21, which was a massive issue. Instead of the Canucks finding a veteran goaltender they could carry on the roster as part of the taxi squad, they decided to use DiPietro. The result was a wasted year as he only played four games the entire season, with those coming for the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League (AHL). While working with Vancouver’s goalie coach Ian Clark every day was valuable, he should have been playing games on a regular basis to avoid what turned out to be a year of lost development.
It was clear that the 2020-21 season hurt DiPietro as he was passed by Spencer Martin on the depth chart during the 2021-22 campaign at the AHL and NHL levels. With the Canucks signing Collin Delia this offseason and Artrus Silovs looking for a bigger role, it looks as though a similar fate could be in store for him during the 2022-23 season, with the former 2017 third-round pick having to fight for the crease in Abbotsford. As such, a trade could be the best thing for both parties, with the following three teams being a good landing spot for the former Windsor Spitfire.
Just like the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers are in a bind when it comes to organizational goaltending depth. With Spencer Knight recently graduating to the NHL and the team trading away Devon Levi as part of the Sam Reinhart deal, they are left with just two out of four total signed goaltenders in the system under the age of 28. They are a team that could desperately use a player like the 23-year-old DiPietro to come in and help add depth to a pipeline that desperately needs it.
Based on who the Panthers have signed, their plan for the AHL is to run Alex Lyon and Mack Guzda. While Lyon has experience playing over 200 total games at the AHL and NHL levels, Guzda is making the transition from the junior to the professional level this coming season. Bringing in DiPietro would allow them to place the 21-year-old in the ECHL next season so he can develop properly by getting regular minutes while giving the current Canucks goaltender the opportunity to compete for the starting job in the AHL.
The Canadiens are a team that needs to build up their goaltending depth fast. As of July 30, 2022, they only have three goaltenders signed in Carey Price, Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault, and have one restricted free agent to sign in Cayden Primeau. If there is an injury in their goaltending department, it could throw the entire team into a spiral with similar results to the 2021-22 season.
Bringing in DiPietro would give the Canadiens some extra stability within the organization. They know first-hand how important depth is as they used six different goaltenders over the course of the 2021-22 campaign due to Price missing most of the season. As mentioned, they only have four goalies signed for 2022-23, and with Montreal facing cap issues, adding someone that carries a cap hit of $840,000 could be the best move to increase their goaltender depth. Whether he stays the entire season in the AHL or gets an opportunity to fill in at the NHL level, bringing in the Windsor native makes a lot of sense to help shore up their goaltending depth.
Tampa Bay Lightning
The defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions are a team desperate for an injection of youth into their goaltending system. Out of the six goaltenders within the Lightning organization, only three are younger than DiPietro, with only one of those players signed to a contract in Hugo Alnefelt. Just like with the Canadiens, any sort of long-term injury to a goaltender could be detrimental to their season based on their shallow depth.
Next season, the Lightning are projected to use Alnefelt and 29-year-old Max Lagacé as their goaltenders in the AHL. Acquiring DiPietro could allow them to send Alnefelt down to the ECHL so the recently turned 21-year-old can get consistent game action and develop properly rather than fighting for games at the AHL level. It would also allow the former OHL Goalie of the Year to join an organization with Mikhail Sergachev and Sean Day, who he won the Memorial Cup with in 2017. This partnership makes a ton of sense as Tampa Bay adds youth and a goaltender who is determined to prove he can produce at the pro level.
Change Of Scenery Best Option For DiPietro
It is evident a change of scenery is necessary at this point for DiPietro, with Eastern Conference teams looking like the best landing spot. Just because it has not worked out in Vancouver doesn’t mean he isn’t an intriguing prospect. All he needs is a situation where he can play consistently and, most importantly, be supported through his development. It is a shame the relationship has been fractured to this extent but will hopefully serve as an important lesson for the future, not just for the Canucks but others around the league as well.
Adam is excited to be joining The Hockey Writers as part of the Seattle Kraken and Vancouver Canucks team. His work can also be found at area51sportsnet.com where he covers the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.