Anders Lee and Kevin Shattenkirk came together Saturday in a show of Islanders-Rangers unity a block over from the Garden. The two players with kindness in their hearts had combined to raise more than $600,000 at their own events to benefit kids with cancer, and now they were double-teaming to raise more.
“That’s the fun part of today is that there’s always going to be that bit of tension, Islanders-Rangers tension, but we obviously put that aside,” Shattenkirk said during the Jam Kancer in the Kan Foundation event at the Renaissance hotel in Manhattan. “We both respect each other and what we’re doing here and just have a good time with it.”
But there was an underlying question about the co-hosts on this day: Will free agent-to-be Lee be back with the Islanders and will Shattenkirk, amid trade and buyout speculation, be back with the Rangers?
It’s hard to imagine that the Islanders could lose their captain two years in a row after John Tavares left for Toronto last time around. But Lee can start talking to other teams Sunday in advance of the July 1 opening of free agency.
“You know what? I never thought we’d be to this point, but I guess it’s the nature of what this week means,” Lee said. “But that doesn’t change how I feel at all.”
He feels that his first choice is to stay with the Islanders. He said that “the talks are still going.” Indeed Lou Lamoriello was seen speaking with Lee’s agent, Neil Sheehy, Saturday at the draft in Vancouver.
The left wing began playing here in the 2012-13 seasons. He has scored 102 goals the last three seasons, including 28 last season. He’s high on the future of this team. He has these charitable ties in the community. But he turns 29 on July 3, so this is his chance to land a big contract.
“There’s not really a day or a moment that I haven’t put my thoughts into everything,” Lee said. “I hope this all works out. I haven’t enjoyed thinking about the other options. It’s something I think we’re still going to figure out. Obviously, it’s Saturday, so it’s coming down to it.
“What I want is it to be the right fit. I want it to be good for the team. I want it to be good for myself. I think any player would want to play as long as they can in a place they love.”
Shattenkirk wanted to be with the Rangers and he wants to stay with Rangers. The defenseman grew up in Westchester as a fan of this team. He has two years left on his four-year, $26.6 million deal, with a cap hit of $6.65 million.
But he’s 30 and coming off what he called a “pretty average year.” The Rangers also just acquired a No. 1 type righthanded defenseman from Winnipeg in Jacob Trouba. That makes for a crowd of righties on defense along with Shattenkirk, restricted free agent Tony DeAngelo and Adam Fox.
“I don’t see why I wouldn’t be coming back, but at the same time, that’s the nature of the business and we’ll see what happens,” Shattenkirk said. “I think the exciting thing about it is we’re building our team to win a lot sooner than I think everyone thought.
“The Trouba trade was a big move for our team, and obviously (Friday) night we got a pretty special player (Kaapo Kakko) in the draft. So we’re going to have a solid team next year.”
He said he hadn’t heard anything from GM Jeff Gorton about moving on, saying, “The thing we talked about was coming back and having a big year next year.”
“I think I want this to work out more than anyone,” Shattenkirk said. “I want to know what it’s like to win in New York and bring a championship here. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid and it still is.”
Shattenkirk and Lee mingled and played the Frisbee-throwing game Kan Jam. The expectation was to raise more than $30,000 to help grant wishes for kids with cancer through a partnership with the Marty Lyons Foundation.
“We get to meet them and see how brave they are, fighting this disease, not really knowing anything else,” Lee said. “It’s inspiring to know how strong they can be. If we can take their mind off it or give them an outlet to put a smile on their face, that’s the least we can do.”