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Lee of Islanders expects to enter NHL free agency interview period

Captain who can become UFA on July 1 'didn't think we'd get to this point'

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

NEW YORK -- Anders Lee is expecting to enter the NHL free agency interview period on Sunday, the New York Islanders captain said.

"This was never an intention," the left wing who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1 said Saturday. "There hasn't been an agenda or anything like that. I guess that's where we're at. We're right there, so it's just part of the process, I guess.

"I didn't think we'd get to this point. The process hasn't … I haven't enjoyed it, but it is what it is. We want to make sure that everything is done right and it's right for both of us, for both sides. I hope it works out. They're working on it right now."

Lee, who turns 29 on July 3, replaced John Tavares as captain after Tavares signed a seven-year, $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2018. Lee's agent, Neil Sheehy, visited the Islanders practice facility several times and had dialogue with general manager Lou Lamoriello over the course of the season, and the two spoke again at Rogers Arena in Vancouver during the 2019 NHL Draft on Saturday.

However, a deal has yet to materialize.

"Lou said it best, 'when you have time, use it,'" said Lee, who had 51 points (28 goals, 23 assists) in 82 regular-season games before helping New York reach the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where he had one goal and three assists in eight games. "It's one of those things that this is the business side of it. Neil and Lou are working on it right now."

Video: NYI@WPG: Lee tips home Pulock's one-timer for PPG

The Islanders entered the offseason with four key unrestricted free agents: Lee, right wing Jordan Eberle, center Brock Nelson and goalie Robin Lehner. Nelson agreed to a six-year contract on May 23, and Eberle for five years on June 14. Lehner, who won the Masterton Trophy and was a finalist for the Vezina, and Lee, remain unsigned. Lee has 258 points (152 goals, 106 assists) in 425 games, all with New York.

"We had said [from] Day One we wanted all of our free agents back," Lamoriello said Thursday. "Fortunately two are back, and it's our job to try and get the other two back."

Asked about Lee's comments regarding the free agency interview period, Lamoriello said, "I have no response to it. We'll do everything we can."

Lee was named captain the morning of the Islanders season opener and helped them to a 48-27-7 record and a second-place finish in the Metropolitan Division. They swept the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round.

"Anders has always been a guy that handles himself so well, especially being a first-year captain and doing what he did," Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey said. "I thought he was phenomenal. He doesn't let his emotions affect other people. As one of his great friends, I can't even tell [if he's nervous].

"What I will say is I know that he wants to be here and I know they want him here. Sometimes you just let the business take care of itself and sort of distract yourself from all the other emotions. I've got my fingers crossed. He's a great person, it's a great organization and hopefully things will work out."

Lee can sign for as many as eight years with New York before July 1, when he will be eligible to sign for as long as seven elsewhere.

"I wouldn't say [I'm] upset; I don't think that's the right [word]," said Lee, a sixth-round pick (No. 151) by the Islanders in the 2009 NHL Draft. "I've learned a lot throughout all of this and I'm hopeful that things will work out.

"These are career decisions. They can't be taken lightly. When you have almost a year to try and figure this thing out, it's hard not to think of every single scenario, and a lot of the scenarios I haven't really enjoyed thinking about. It's one of those things where I hope it works out and be done with it."

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