Would the NY Islanders really consider buying out captain Anders Lee's contract?

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Four
Carolina Hurricanes v New York Islanders - Game Four / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

From the moment Anders Lee signed his seven-year $49M extension after the 2018-19 season, it was viewed as an overpay. It was one that the New York Islanders had to do after swinging and missing on Artemi Panarin and risking losing their captain after one of the most successful regular seasons since the dynasty years in year one of Barry Trotz.

It's not Lee's fault that he is earning $7M AAV and playing like someone who should be making between $ 4 and $5M AAV and in fairness, he's been remarkably consistent through his contract through through the first five years. This hasn't become the albatross that was the Andrew Ladd contract; it's been nothing close to that. Lee has been a productive top-six forward.

He had 20 goals in 68 games in 2019-20 and 12 goals in just 27 games before he tore his ACL and was lost for the 2021 season. He rehabbed and was ready for the start of next season, scoring 28 goals each of the next two seasons. Last year, after a slow start, he still found a way to hit the 20-goal mark for the ninth time in his career despite being moved off the top line, away from Mathew Barzal.

So, with two years left on his contract, should the GM Lou Lamoriello be considering buying out the team's captain? Per Cap Friendly, a Lee buyout would span four years, has a cost of $6,900,000 and savings of $3,450,000. Lee is 33 years of age at the time of the buyout; therefore, the buyout ratio is 2/3. With $10,350,000 in salary remaining, the cost is $6,900,000, and the savings are $3,450,000.

The cap hit would be $2.875M next season and $4.225M the year after that. The two final years would cost 1.725M in the 2026-27 and 27-28 seasons. If the Islanders were to do that, it would be in an effort to be a player in free agency this summer, as they have a little less than $5M of projected cap space right now. While the 33-year-old Lee is unlikely to approach 30 goals again, he has proven to be durable following his knee injury and is still good for 20+ goals because of his net-front presence.

If the team made the roster-rattling move of buying out their captain, it would signal that they have zeroed in on a target that they will need the cap space to bring in. The league allows teams to be over the cap before the start of the season, meaning the Isles make a move and determine buying out Lee is the only way to get under the cap. While fans will continue to throw it out there as a possibility, it feels more like a long shot that doesn't make much sense without knowing how the extra cap space would be used, and the Isles haven't historically been big players in the free agency market.