Anders Lee, the islanders captain, will miss the remainder of the 2021 season with a knee injury, Lou Lamoriello, the team president and general manager, said on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old Lee injured his right knee in the home win against the Devils last Thursday when he became entangled with Devils striker Pavel Zacha. Lee is tied with Brock Nelson for a team leading 12 goals on the playoff-competing Islanders (19-7-4). Lamoriello expected that after his recovery, Lee would be ready for the next season.
“It’s an ACL and that’s as far as I’ll go,” Lamoriello said in a video press conference. “Doctors are extremely comfortable with 100 percent recovery from the type of injury he has.”
He added, “It won’t be as bad as many ACL injuries because nothing else is damaged.”
Before the injury, durability was a hallmark of Lee, who signed a seven-year $ 49 million contract with the islanders in July 2019. He was playing in his 295th straight game when he was injured. Recruited by the Islanders in the sixth round in 2009, Lee has 184 career goals in 520 games.
Lee’s absence creates a dilemma for Lamoriello, who must decide whether to trade in for a temporary replacement or with the current squad, whose 42 points are related to the East Division’s leading games at Washington Capitals, 26 more games in the regular season Has. The Islanders have set a 9-1 record in the last 10 games and have been particularly strong throughout the season at the Nassau Coliseum. There they set a 12-0-2 record in their home games against Philadelphia on Thursday and Saturday.
With Lee in the long-term injured reserve, the islanders have some flexibility with the salary cap for the remainder of the season and thus the chance to attract a striker like Buffalo’s Taylor Hall or Kyle Palmieri from the Devils who will become unrestricted free agents after the season .
“It certainly changes our focus,” said Lamoriello. “You lose such a player, the role he plays – our top scorer until he is injured. If we can improve, we will. But we’re not going to do something just to do it. “
Lee brings a ferocious presence to the line-up without the fear of standing in front of an opponent’s net to check the goalkeeper and endure the corporal punishment that ensues. He has thrived in line with winger Jordan Eberle and goalscorer Mathew Barzal.
In Lee’s absence, Islander’s coach Barry Despite had put the 22-year-old winger Kieffer Bellows on Lee’s place. Bellows, designed by the Islanders in the first round in 2016, also has a robust style of play, scoring three goals in two wins against the Devils last weekend.
Lee’s calm leadership had benefited the islanders, who had made the playoffs in defiance for the past two seasons and appear ready to play for the third straight post-season, this time without their captain. Lee also missed the team’s playoff run in 2016 after contracting a broken left fibula in a late-season game against the Rangers.
Lee has earned the respect of islanders’ teammates and alumni for playing and organizing charity events. When the islanders retired the number 27 of four-time Stanley Cup winner John Tonelli last year, Tonelli praised Lee, who, with Tonelli’s approval, continues to wear the number 27.
“I think 27 is our number,” Tonelli said at the time. “It’s not just mine.”
While the islanders move forward without Lee, Lamoriello continues to trust his players who made it to the conference finals last summer.
“We don’t ask anyone to do anything else just to maximize their talents,” he said. “You’re so successful together. I have said day in and day out throughout my career that individual players will help you win games, but teams will win championships. All teams overcome these types of obstacles. You just have to overcome it. “