The Islanders got down to the league-mandated 23-man roster a few hours before 5 p.m. on Tuesday, but not without some consternation about one of their good, young players missing out on the big club.
Anders Lee, who had a solid camp and preseason, was sent to Bridgeport along with defenseman Ryan Pulock Tuesday afternoon. With four players -- forward Michael Grabner (lower body) and defensemen Calvin de Haan (upper body), Matt Carkner (upper body) and Lubomir Visnovsky (back) -- placed on injured reserve to start the season, the Islanders went the safest route they could, demoting two players in Lee and Pulock who do not need waivers to be sent down.
Lee likely outplayed six-year veteran Josh Bailey, but general manager Garth Snow and coach Jack Capuano aren't ready to push Bailey and the four years and $13.2 million remaining on his contract aside just yet. Pulock appeared to have won a spot with a strong first week of the preseason before a lower-body injury sidelined him for the past 10 days, so fellow 20-year-old Griffin Reinhart starts the season on the Islanders' roster and Pulock heads to the AHL to work back into shape.
"Anders, that's a tough one," Capuano admitted after Tuesday's practice. "He's had a pretty good camp. He's going to be an Islander for a long time, but at this point it's a numbers game. But things change daily around here. The guys that are here have to show every day the work ethic and results to stay here."
That was small consolation to Lee, who accepted his qualifying offer of $850,500 rather than try to negotiate a longer-term deal. At age 24 and in his second full pro season, Lee believed the nine goals he scored in 22 games last season plus his good camp were enough to stick.
"I know I can play at this level; I feel like I did the best I could with the opportunity I had last year," he said. "Everything I do is to try and help this team win. That won't change, whether I'm here or [in Bridgeport]."