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Lee among four key players Islanders hoping to re-sign

Forward can become unrestricted free agent July 1, along with Lehner, Eberle, Nelson

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

EAST MEADOW, N.Y. --  Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, Brock Nelson and Robin Lehner can all become unrestricted free agents July 1, and the New York Islanders want them all to stay.

"We're going to have to see exactly how we can fit them all in," general manager Lou Lamoriello said Monday, three days after New York's season ended in a four-game sweep by the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "But we'd like them back, without question. They have to make decisions and we have to make decisions. But they're all quality human beings, they're quality players and they've been an integral part of this organization this year."

Lee, in his first season as captain of the Islanders, led New York with 28 goals during the regular season. A sixth-round pick (No. 151) in the 2009 NHL Draft, Lee has 258 points (152 goals, 106 assists) in 425 games, all with the Islanders.

Video: Islanders face tough offseason after Hurricanes sweep

He said he expects dialogue between his agent, Neil Sheehy, and Lamoriello to intensify in the coming weeks.

"Neil's been out here a bunch this year, and his conversations with Lou will continue," the 28-year-old forward said. "They'll pick up here now and we'll go from there. Lou and him will get together and have their conversations, and then we can move forward. Nothing's really changed."

It's the second straight season the Islanders will have their captain potentially become an unrestricted free agent; John Tavares, who Lee replaced as captain, signed a seven-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2018.

"You wouldn't and could not find a [better] captain," Lamoriello said of Lee. "He did a tremendous job. As I've said all along, we're going to do everything we possibly can to keep him. That's the best way I can answer that."

Lehner agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Islanders on July 3, 2018, looking to start over after discussing going to rehab to help deal with mental health struggles that led to suicidal thoughts and drug and alcohol addictions.

The 27-year-old goalie went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts in 46 regular-season games. He is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the top goalie in the NHL, and the Masterton Trophy, awarded annually by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey. The winners will be announced at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone at the Mandalay Bay Events Center sports and entertainment complex in Las Vegas on June 19.

"I can't say enough, I love this team," Lehner said. "I love everything about [it]. I've been very vocal about the situation here, but you never know with sports. I can only hope [I'm back]. We'll see what happens. I don't want to [tick] anyone off.

"I've got to kind of digest everything and see where everything's at. Obviously I'm happy I'm here and I'm feeling good. I'm happy, but there's a long road left for me to walk. I'm just going to try to find some type of stability moving forward." 

Eberle had 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 78 games, his fewest in a full NHL season. He scored in each of New York's four games during its sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round but had three assists in four games against the Hurricanes. He turns 29 on May 15.

Video: NYI@PIT, Gm4: Eberle beats Murray on odd-man rush

"You look at the season as a whole and it's obviously a positive," Eberle said. "I thought I played well. Obviously the first round, the puck went in quite a bit. The second round it didn't, but I had a lot of chances. You look at the season as a whole, it's obviously a positive."

Nelson, 27, developed into a solid two-way center under Islanders coach Barry Trotz and had a personal NHL-high 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in 82 games. He is in Minnesota after his wife gave birth to their second child Sunday.

Some other notes from Islanders breakup day:

-- Lamoriello said everything remains on target to break ground for an arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, this summer.

"I have inside knowledge as much as you can possibly have … I don't have any question," Lamoriello said. "I would not have come here if there was not going to be a new arena."

-- A back injury prevented right wing Cal Clutterbuck from playing Game 4. The injury may require surgery.

"It's disappointing, because in my mind I really thought I could do it," Clutterbuck said. "I managed to do it in Game 3, managed to do it in different games. It's been bugging me for a long time. It's just got the point where I wasn't going to be able to do what I wanted to do out there. I had to pull the plug. It's disappointing."

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