NEWARK — The Islanders announced before Sunday’s shootout win over the Devils that they were placing Anders Lee on long-term injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, raising the possibility that their captain will be unable to return in the regular season.
It allows the Islanders to apply Lee’s $7 million salary-cap hit above the $81.5 million ceiling, giving president and general manager Lou Lamoriello the room to pursue any of the pricey targets with the NHL trade deadline on April 12.
Players on LTIR must miss a minimum of 10 NHL games and 24 days, and Lee would be eligible to return on April 6 against the Capitals. Coach Barry Trotz had no further updates about how long he might be sidelined.
"It’s going to take a village. He’s a unique player," Trotz said. "We’ve got to fill the void, that’s all. As we go along, we’ll give you some further updates."
The Islanders already are exceeding the NHL’s ceiling with de facto retired defenseman Johnny Boychuk ($6 million) being placed on LTIR just before the season.
The trade market includes former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, an impending unrestricted free agent on a one-year, $8 million deal with the Sabres.
Other impending UFA forwards include the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri ($4.65 million), who is from Smithtown; Blue Jackets captain Nick Foligno ($5.5 million), the Sabres’ Eric Staal ($3.25 million), the Red Wings’ Bobby Ryan ($1 million) and the Senators’ Ryan Dzingel ($3.375 million).
Other forwards possibly available include the Predators’ Filip Forsberg, who has one season remaining on a six-year, $36 million deal; the Ducks’ Rickard Rakell, who has one season left on a six-year, $22.8 million deal, and Ducks teammate Adam Henrique, who has three seasons left on a five-year, $29.125 million deal. He was selected in the third round by the Devils in 2008 when Lamoriello ran that franchise.
Lee was injured in the first period of Thursday night’s 5-3 win over the Devils at Nassau Coliseum. He is out indefinitely, and Trotz must plan as if Lee won’t be available.
"You don’t have any choice," he said. "You move on. It’s part of life. One guy goes down, you just keep moving on. You don’t fold your tents and go home, take your ball and leave the beach. That’s not what you do."
Saturday’s 3-2 win over the Devils at Prudential Center marked the end of Lee’s ironman streak of 295 straight games dating to Jan. 24, 2017. It was the eighth-longest active streak in the NHL and the third-longest in Islanders history.