Lou Lamoriello is signing all unfamiliar New York Islanders players to short-term deals. The question becomes, would Anders Lee accept a deal shorter than market expectation?
These days with the New York Islanders, if Lou doesn’t know you, you’re getting a short-term deal (see: Pulock, Toews, Lehner, Kovar, Filppula). If he does, you’re in luck (see: Leo Komarov 4-year $12 million deal).
Lou has made clear that he plans to analyze the Isles roster before making long-term commitments (Ross Johnston the one random outlier). Rightfully, as the one overseeing the franchise, he’d like to see game action to inform his decisions.
Anders Lee is a vocal leader on the Islanders, the top goal scorer and the most likely next captain of the team. Re-signing Lee before he’s a UFA is surely a priority for Lou, but he is ardently against locking himself into any commitments.
So, it begs the question – would Anders Lee accept one of those short-term deals that Lou is handing out these days?
Why Would Lou Offer It?
Well, that’s obvious.
He’d be locking in a 40-goal scorer in his prime – one who plays to his skills on the Isles top line – with no long-term commitment deep into Lee’s 30’s.
It would remove any turmoil and doubt surrounding Lee that we endured with last season’s antics from John Tavares.
But more importantly, would Lee take it?
Why he wouldn’t accept it
The easy answer is, and likely one that most people are thinking now, of course, he wouldn’t. He is only 28, and just scored 74 goals the past two seasons.
Lee is trending towards another solid season, setting him up for a huge payday either from the Islanders or another team looking for an under-30 power forward with a proven ability to score.
He would have the flexibility to choose where he ends up and he may actually have an even better season leading into free agency. The prospect of pairing with Barzal and Eberle is enticing and would put a ton of pucks to the net for him to clean up.
So, it’s obvious he wouldn’t do that, right? Maybe not.
Why he would
Anders Lee loves the Islanders, and we’ve learned the harsh lesson that love for a team can trump all other factors. The Isles fans absolutely love Lee as well, so the mutual appreciation certainly factors in. Lee is not a player to hold a team hostage.
New York Islanders
Emotion aside, Lee would get an immediate raise. He stands to make $5 million in 2018-19, but would see that jump immediately up to a fair market value by signing a new deal this summer.
The guaranteed payday would give him a longer term financial stability than playing out the current deal and would protect him against a bad injury or down year.
Strike while the iron is hot.
It’s no surprise that Lee’s two best seasons – 34 and 40 goals – happened while playing on the top line centered by Tavares. He won’t have that again, and there is no guarantee that he’ll even be centered by rising star Mat Barzal.
He could be looking at an opening night line centered by NHL newbie Jan Kovar. Right now is simply the best leverage that Lee will ever have.
The next contract.
He’d also have the ability to reach his next unrestricted free agency contract again at age 31, instead of 34 or 35 if he waits to sign a longer-term deal next season. Look what Leo Komarov just signed for at age 31.
As Kirk Cousins just showed in the NFL, setting yourself up for your next contract is as important as your current one.
The van Riemsdyk Comparison
Historically, production drops significantly as you get past the age of 31 or 32. We’ve seen it ourselves with Johnny Boychuck.
Andrew Ladd signed with the Islanders just as he (clearly) was about to hit his decline and cashed in because of it. Had he tried to sign a new deal now at age 32 he would have been paid millions less for fewer years.
A 29-year-old free agent can look a lot different depending on how their latest season went.
A good season gets you paid James van Riemsdyk money, but a poor season makes GMs lose sleep at night, fearing that they’d be the guy to give out the next Andrew Ladd or Milan Lucic contract.
James van Riemsdyk just signed a five-year $35 million contract with the Flyers. Let’s compare Lee and van Riemsdyk.
- 6’3” 231 lbs
- 28 years old
- Career 0.60 points per game played
- Career 0.36 goals per game played
- 6’3” 217 lbs
- 29 years old (the age Lee would be in his UFA offseason)
- Career 0.65 points per game played
- Career 0.33 goals per game played
van Riemsdyk scored 36 goals last year. For sake of argument, let’s say Lee drops from 40 goals down to his previous season of 34. He’d now be looking at a comparable contract ceiling of five years with an AAV of $7 million.
A three-year $7.5 million AAV deal gives Lee an immediate $2.5 million raise and provides Lou flexibility. Both sides win, and more importantly, gives the team on the ice the best chance of winning.
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Lou is a savvy negotiator, and overpaying Lee to surrender two to three years at the end of the deal would be a prudent move to lock up a top power forward, the potential captain and fan favorite.