In a way, nothing has changed for Anders Lee. The captain is back skating with his Islanders teammates, preparing for the start of next week’s training camp. And, in a way, everything’s different after he signed a seven-year, $49 million deal on July 1 that should tether him to the organization that drafted him for the bulk of his career.
“This has always been my home in professional hockey and none of that is changing, which is really exciting,” Lee said on Friday. “But I think just the weight that is lifted off your shoulders, you don’t have to think about any of that, that side of things anymore.
“Now I can just show up and play hockey and worry about the things we do here at the rink, not all the extra stuff,” Lee added. “I feel a little bit lighter, even though things haven’t necessarily changed a whole lot.”
Lee was one of 26 players on the ice in East Meadow on Friday, his first time participating in the informal practices.
Also on the ice was fourth line right wing Cal Clutterbuck, rehabbing from offseason surgery to correct nerve damage in his back that he said could have been “career threatening.”
Clutterbuck said he has no restrictions on the ice and feels “normal.” President and general manager Lou Lamoriello has indicated he expects him to be ready for the start of the regular season.
“I just remarked to my wife, I don’t think I’ve felt this tall in a long time, just being able to stand up,” Clutterbuck said. “You lose sight of what normal feels like. It gives me an indication it was lingering for a long time before I needed surgery.”
Lee, 29, a Minnesota native who had 28 goals and 23 assists a season after scoring a career-high 40 goals in 2017-18, arrived on Long Island on Thursday night. He spent his last days of summer vacation in Chicago with his wife’s family while attending an NHL Players Association meeting on Wednesday. The union has a Sept. 15 deadline to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement.
The league already has announced it will not opt out, but there are negotiating issues, such as the escrow deducted from players’ salaries to ensure a 50-50 revenue split between the NHL and the NHLPA.
“There’s always improvements that can be made and there’s things both sides see,” said Lee, also the Islanders’ player representative. “It’s a healthy league right now. Things are good for the players, good for the owners. I think escrow is an easy target, it’s something you see immediately. But to change that, it takes a lot from both sides to really change it.”
Notes & quotes: Unrestricted free agent defenseman Luca Sbisa, who had one assist in nine games for the Islanders last season, has participated in the informal skates this week and likely will attend training camp on a professional tryout offer . . . The Islanders’ four-day rookie camp will open on Sunday. It culminates with a rookie game against the Flyers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday night.