December 9, 2018 | 3:47pm ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
ISLANDERS HOPING TO SIGN LEE TO EXTENSION
TORONTO, ON -- Raise your hand if you had the New York Islanders sitting in third spot in the Metropolitan Division at the 1/3 mark of the regular-season.
Nobody? Didn’t think so. (Superfans, relax, you didn’t either.)
The first 28 games of the season have been solid for the Islanders, who have compiled a 14-11-3 record. Most impressive is their record against their divisional rivals, whom they’ve beaten 10 times on 13 attempts, losing once to the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.
As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see how General Manager Lou Lamoriello approaches some of his pending unrestricted free agents. If the Isles are still in the playoff race, do they test the market or do they stand pat?
For the time being, one thing is clear: both the Islanders and captain Anders Lee are hoping their relationship grows beyond this season.
According to multiple sources, the Islanders have been engaged in contract negotiations with Lee and his agent on a long-term extension in the six-to-seven year range.
Lee, 28, is in the final year of a four-year, $15 million contract, and could certainly command a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $7 million to $7.5 million per season on the open market.
Both Neil Sheehy, Lee’s agent, and Lamoriello declined to comment on ongoing negotiations. As is customary, Lamoriello never speaks publicly on any contract discussions he’s engaged in.
Contract talks have been ongoing for the better part of the last month, and given how Lamoriello and the Islanders named Lee captain at the beginning of the season, the native of Edina, Minnesota, is considered higher on their priority list than Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson.
Eberle and Nelson are also in the final year of their respective contracts and it’s unclear, at this point, if Lamoriello is interested in exploring new deals for them.
With multiple pending free agents up front, it will be interesting to see if Lamoriello decides to let them walk, as they are part of the club’s ‘old regime,’ or if Lee is the only player he’s interested in re-signing.
I’m not yet sure if the Islanders have the appetite to sign Lee to a deal north of $7 million per season, as an annual average value closer to $6 million or $6.5 million might be more to their liking. How ever you look at it, the fact negotiations are fluid is a good sign if you want this marriage to carry on beyond this season.
Taking his goal-scoring production into account, an argument could be made that his offensive game makes him comparable to James van Riemsdyk, who inked a five-year, $35 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers in the summer.
In 28 games so far this year, Lee has registered 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points with the Islanders, and is currently on pace for 32 goals on the season. He was bloodied up after a hit in the first period of Saturday night’s game by Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall, but returned after going through concussion protocol and needing stitches above his left eye and his mouth.
Last season, Lee put up 40 goals and 22 assists, and tallied 34 goals and 18 assists in 2016-17.
A 32-TEAM LEAGUE
Seattle was officially welcomed as the NHL’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday after the NHL’s Board of Governors voted unanimously on their expansion bid.
Seattle’s group was pushing to have their inaugural season take place in 2020-21, but given how their new arena might not be ready by the time the puck is ready to drop in October 2020, an obvious concern for the NHL, they’ll get going in 2021-22.
When the Rangers renovated Madison Square Garden several years ago, they didn’t’ play their home opener until Oct. 27 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. We could have seen a similar situation take place in Seattle, but that isn’t ideal for the players or the team and ultimately the NHL wasn’t willing to take any risks.
There’s also the possibility – or “anticipation,” depending on who you talk to – of a lockout/work stoppage in Sept. 2020, and that would really suck the wind out of the sails of the plans for any team’s first season.
The Seattle Center Arena, formerly KeyArena, broke ground on renovations on Wednesday and by this time next year we’ll know what a $700 million fixer-upper gets you. By the time they open the doors, they’ll also have a new arena name, as the Oak View Group is going through the process of fielding naming-rights offers.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH ARIZONA?
On Nov. 6, I reported the Arizona Coyotes were closing in on an ownership change that could get “ironed out in early-2019.”
While the wheels are still in motion, the only update I’ve received following this week’s Board of Governors meetings is the sale may take a little bit longer.
One thing appears clear, according to the multiple league sources: Andrew Barroway is going to be out as majority owner of the Coyotes when the dust settles on the expected sale of the franchise. Some within the League are hoping the deal is finalized by the end of the regular-season.
Whether Barroway stays on board in a minority roll is not yet clear.
There have been multiple groups supposedly interested in the Coyotes, and while most understand the terms of sale include keeping the club in Arizona, noise over a possible move to Houston will only get louder if a new arena is not on the horizon.
It’s entirely possible the interested party in the Coyotes is working on plans for a new rink, but that’s merely speculative at this point.
When Tom Dundon purchased the Carolina Hurricanes from Peter Karmanos Jr., he agreed to a deal that included a clause that prevents the team from relocating for at least seven-years. Granted, there are inevitable loopholes to get out of such a clause, and things can certainly change, but I suspect a similar term (loopholes included) will come into play once Barroway sells the Coyotes.