The captain is back and he's here to stay.
Hours after free agency officially commenced, the Islanders announced that the team had re-signed Anders Lee to a seven-year contract. That was more than fine with Lee, who's preferred destination all along was Long Island, so much so that he opted not to explore his unrestricted free agency status.
"Today is a wonderful day," Lee said. "My wife and I couldn't be happier. This is the place we always wanted to be and always saw ourselves. We couldn't be more thrilled than we are right now."
Video: Free Agency 2019: Anders Lee
Lee, who has led the Islanders in goals in each of the past three seasons, told reporters that he'd never envisioned leaving Long Island. Despite taking negotiations to July 1 Lee was confident that he would remain an Islander one way or another.
"It's a process that always seems to work itself out. I'd always told [my agent Neil Sheehy], 'Just keep working with Lou and we'll figure this out,'" Lee said. "Those two would hammer this out and we'd get this all done. Obviously, it took a little bit of time. That's just how these things work. There were some ups and downs, but at the end of the day I knew that we would figure this all out together."
In Lee, the Islanders are returning one of the NHL's premier goal scorers, as Lee's 102 goals are 13th in the NHL since the start of the 2016-17 season. He's netted 25 or more in each of the past three seasons and four times in his career.
The extension also retained the team's captain, as Lee, who was selected in the sixth-round pick (151st overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, became the Isles 15th captain in franchise history last October. During his first year of captaincy, Lee demonstrated his innate leadership qualities and was an embodiment of the 'we-over-me' culture which the whole organization had adopted under the introduction of head coach Barry Trotz last season.
For Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello, those reasons made it a priority to re-sign the 28-year-old left-winger.
"It was extremely important," Lamoriello said. "He was our captain and still is our captain."
Lamoriello was quick to also clarify a reporter's question about bringing Lee back.
"We didn't bring him back," Lamoriello said. "He never left."
With his contract signed, sealed and delivered, Lee joined pending UFA's; Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle in re-upping with the team. The captain said he wanted to continue to build on the foundation that greatly influenced the success of the 2018-19 season.
Video: Anders Lee, Isles agree to terms on seven-year deal
"We did some special things last year and we have a lot to look forward into what we can build off of and grow as a team," Lee said. "When you see Brock and you see Ebs get those deals done, you're pumped for them and you're pumped for the team. We can continue to try to get better."
For Lee, walking away from a budding team, and an adopted home, just wasn't going to cut it, which is why Monday's long-term deal was so important to him.
"Long Island has become my home; I have grown up here," Lee said. "I've spent a lot of time not only living and playing here but continuing to meet a ton of wonderful people in our community, Islanders fans and a lot of great things have come from those relationships. That's all part of all of this. It's what makes the Island our home. It's what makes being an Islander so special. That also leads into the guys in our room and what we have going. We're all trying to do something special here, that's not something that I didn't want to be a part of."
Our captain is back for the 2019-20 season! Don't miss a minute of the action by becoming a season ticket member today. Members receive the best prices, exclusive benefits, and priority seat selection for our new arena at Belmont Park. Click the link or call us at 888-694-7537 to get your seats!