News broke this morning that the Islanders would be without their captain Anders Lee for the remainder of the 2021 season, including playoffs. The news broke from Isles’ GM Lou Lamoriello after he was placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve earlier this week. He is set to undergo surgery later this month.
What Do We Know?
Well, we found out earlier this week that the Isles would be without their top-line winger for the remainder of the 2021 season after getting tied up with Pavel Zacha, taking him out of the game. He was then placed on LTIR on Sunday, retroactive to Thursday.
Being placed on LTIR in the NHL means that a player must miss at least 10 NHL games and 24 days. This was almost a guarantee considering the way Lee went down and didn’t get back up. For a hard-nosed gamer like Lee to go down, it had to have been bad.
What Does This Mean for the Islanders?
On the ice, this means that the Islanders will be without a key goal-scorer on their top line. Coupling this with third-line centerman Jean-Gabriel Pageau on the COVID-19 list, the Isles are hurting right now. At the moment, the Isles are missing two big names.
Will Anders Lee Be Ready for 2021-22?
Considering he is set to have ACL repair surgery, he will not be back for this season. At this point, we know that. The real question for Isles fans is whether he will be back next year. The good news is that Lee does not have other damage in the joint, and that will shorten recovery time. However, Lee will still miss a considerable amount of time.
At the end of the day, Isles fans can expect to be without their captain for a good chunk of time. ACL surgery typically comes with a recovery time of 8-12 months. Fortunately, it looks like Lee doesn’t will be on the shorter side of that.
Who Will Replace Lee in His Absence?
Currently, it looks like Lee will be replaced internally. Of late, Kieffer Bellows has been on the top line with Barzal and Eberle. However, it is possible that the Islanders choose to make a move for a rental by the April 12 trade deadline.
When asked about deadline strategies by The Athletic, Lamoriello said, the Isles will do “Whatever we can do to make ourselves better, we will be doing that. [The injury] does change our [deadline] focus. If we can get ourselves better, we will. We’re now looking a little different (at the deadline).”
Placing Lee on LTIR does free up $7 million in cap space that will help New York make a move. If they choose to replace Lee externally, options include Devils’ winger Kyle Palmieri, Blue Jackets’ captain Nick Foligno, and Sabres’ winger Eric Staal, among others.
If they replace him internally, they would likely promote Bellows to the top line indefinitely. That would put Michael Dal Colle back on the third line, with Leo Komarov on the fourth line every night.
At the end of the day, New York has options. Right now, it seems like they are taking the internal route while they weigh the options. The Isles are still the leaders of the East division, so they have time to make a move. Additionally, they still have some cap money from Johnny Boychuck being on LTIR for the remainder of his contract.
The loss of Anders Lee may be a tough one for New York, but it is not one they cannot recover from.