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Tavares' contract talks with Islanders little concern to Lee

'He's the captain of our team and I don't expect that to change,' teammate says

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

New York Islanders captain John Tavares has yet to sign a contract extension and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, but one of his linemates isn't worried about his center going elsewhere.

"Johnny's taking his time," left wing Anders Lee told on Wednesday. "There are few times in our careers where we have the power in the situation. I'm not worried about Johnny [returning] in the slightest. He means everything he says, and he's a great teammate and a great player and leader. He's the captain of our team and I don't expect that to change."

Tavares, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, is entering the final season of his extremely cap-friendly contract that has an average annual value of $5.5 million. He has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 NHL games, all with New York.

Lee, selected in the sixth round (No. 152) of the same draft, played on the top line with Tavares for much of last season and scored an NHL career-high 34 goals. Should Tavares enter this season without a contract extension, Lee does not believe it will be a distraction. The Islanders failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs by one point last season, but went 24-12-4 after Doug Weight replaced Jack Capuano as coach on Jan. 17.

Video: BOS@NYI: Tavares weaves into zone and nets wrister

"I think more than anything, the players, we can't worry about that," said Lee, who is participating in Da Beauty League, where a host of NHL players are playing games for charity twice a week through Aug. 23 at Braemar Arena in Lee's hometown of Edina, Minnesota. "It doesn't really bother us because we know where Johnny stands and what he means to this team, and how much he cares about our organization.

"At the same time, he's got to do his due diligence and whatever that is, it's good for him and we all support him on that. We can't worry about things we can't control, especially the guys not involved."

Tavares has maintained his stance that he'd like to remain with the Islanders, which he most recently reiterated to TSN in Toronto on Aug 1.

"I think I'll just keep all that internal," Tavares said of the negotiations. "We've had great open communication. It's obviously a great place to play. I've really enjoyed my time being an Islander and I want that to continue." correspondent Jessi Pierce contributed to this story.

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