New York Islanders Should Trade Anders Lee This Offseason
By Matt O'Leary
With both Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee set to be UFA’s at the end of next year the New York Islanders should move Lee this offseason.
If you clicked on this out of pure hate I understand completely, but I promise I’m not trolling. Seeing the New York Islanders without Anders Lee is going to be painful, but necessary if the Islanders want to slam open their window of opportunity.
Let me preface this by saying this move is only made if John Tavares is returning. If not, well the Islanders have a whole nother problem, but this is written under the assumption Tavares inks an extension.
I like Anders Lee a lot. He’s become one of the best power forwards in the game the last two years and will likely score over 40 goals this year. Heck, I’m the guy who tweets this video everytime Anders Lee scores:
Lee’s had a role with the big club on a consistent basis since 2014-2015 when he scored 25 goals in his first full year in the league. He dipped off a bit in 2015-2016 with just 15 goals but bounced back strong with 34 last year and 38 already this year.
He’s been a very good Islander, but unfortunately, in the salary cap era, you can’t afford to keep everyone. With both Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee set to become UFA’s after next year it seems likely that the Islanders can only afford to keep one of them.
It makes more sense to keep Jordan Eberle than it does to keep Anders Lee to a long-term deal.
Even though both Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee are essentially the same age, Eberle’s more likely to stay productive for longer. Jordan Eberle is a skill player, meaning he does most of his work from the perimeter.
Eberle’s put up 50 or more points in four of the last five years and has grown to be a valuable asset to Mathew Barzal in his development. He also doesn’t take the physical beating that a power forward does down low.
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Anders Lee will score more goals this year than Eberle, but he makes his living a bit differently. He parks himself in front of the net taking on defenders through almost the entirety of his shifts. It takes a toll on the body and physical, power forwards are likely to decline faster than skill players.
Take Andrew Ladd for example, after his age 29 season in which he put up 52 points he began to decline fast. He followed that up with 46 points, 31 points, and 24 points so far in 2017-2018. He’s on the books for another five-years for $5.5 million.
Another good example of a power forwards rapid decline is Milan Lucic. In his first year in Edmonton last year he put up 50 points (23 goals, 27 assists). So far this year Lucic has just 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) in his age 29 season. He also has five-years left on his deal at a $6 million cap figure.
In order to keep Anders Lee here, you’re likely offering him something in the ballpark of six-years and $42 million ($7 million AAV). As we’ve seen with the other examples power forwards over 30 are rarely still productive. That means you’d be stuck with a $6 million cap hit on a guy for potentially four years where he’s not nearly worth the value.
Plus the Islanders already have a replacement for him waiting in the wings. 19-year-old Kieffer Bellows put up 74 points in the WHL this year. He can make the team at 20-years-old next year and give you similar gameplay to Anders Lee.
Bellows is a skilled power forward who can also skate, something Lee isn’t particularly great at. He could potentially have a higher ceiling than Anders Lee and is eight years younger.
So the Islanders can move Lee, who will easily become one of the best forwards on the market if made available and help improve other areas of the team. For instance, I included Lee in a package I came up with yesterday to bolster up their blue-line.
Coming off a 40 goal season potentially this year, and at one more year of $3.75 million, Lee’s value is at its highest. Instead of holding on to him and letting him walk for nothing at the end of the year you flip him for an elite defender or a high draft pick that you then flip in a package for a defender or goalie.
In the salary cap era, you can’t keep everyone and you have to be smart with the guys you do sign. Right now, Cal Clutterbuck, Andrew Ladd and Casey Cizikas are eating up your cap on long-term deals and are underperforming. They hinder you from improving other areas of your team.
As much as the initial sting of losing Anders Lee would hurt, ultimately I think inking Eberle to a long-term deal over Lee is better for the Islanders long-term success. It also gives you some flexibility to add another depth forward.
If you use my Anders Lee trade package from yesterday and add another forward in free agency your potential lineup could look something like this next year:
Bellows – Tavares – Bailey
Ladd – Barzal – Eberle
Beauvillier – Bozak – Ho-Sang
Johnston – Cizikas – Clutterbuck
Ekman-Larsson – Hjalmarsson
Leddy – Pulock
Toews – Boychuk
I’m already feeling a lot better about 2018-2019 with this lineup than how they’re currently constructed. Plus you can still have room to manipulate your roster and improve your goalie if you’re uncertain about Linus Soderstrom, Chris Gibson, and Thomas Greiss.
Next: 10 Step Plan To Fix The Islanders
Managing a team with the salary cap is hard to do, and sometimes you have to make tough decisions. Losing Anders Lee would be a tough call but it could prove to be beneficial for the Islanders future if he too declines rapidly like other power forwards in the game.