Per our first two free agent profiles, the New Jersey Devils should be able to address their hole at the top of their forward group via free agency. Those two profiles focused on two smaller, scorer type guys as Mats Zuccarello is listed as 5-foot-8 and 184 pounds, and Gustav Nyquist is 5-foot-11 and also 184 pounds.
An area where the Devils have struggled with is physicality. An option in free agency that gives them the ability to address this issue is Anders Lee.
Outside of Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner, and Matt Duchene, New York Islanders’ captain Anders Lee may be the next most sought out forward this offseason. A year after scoring 40 goals, Lee led the Islanders to a playoff appearance. Last season he played in all 82 games, tallying 51 points (28G, 23A) while serving as a left wing.
Lee brings a lot more to the table outside of his scoring. Each of the past five seasons, he has compiled 100 or more hits as well as a plethora of blocked shots and takeaways. Lee brings a physical-type presence that the Devils haven’t seen much of over the past few years. Another added benefit of Lee is he has the ability to serve as a center if need be. Last year he took 155 faceoffs, winning 75 of them. It is also worth mentioning Lee’s durability. Each of the past five seasons, he has appeared in 76 games or more; four of which he was able to play in 80 or more.
As far as underlying numbers he possesses a career 2.9 Relative Corsi For % (Rel CF%). This statistic shows that the Islanders have been better with Lee on the ice rather than off. He also owns a goals above replacement (GAR) of 23.5 over the past three seasons, which ranks him right near the top of all pending unrestricted free agent forwards.
Lee is no doubt a solid power forward, something that is rare in today’s NHL. However, as mentioned above, teams will most likely be valuing him higher than he is worth. Why is this? It’s most likely because he’s only one year removed from a 40-goal season. The folks over at @EvolvingWild are projecting a seven-year deal worth $6,679,556 annually. The length will most likely be on par with what the 28-year old will demand. The fact that Lee is both still in his twenties and an established goal-scorer, the annual payment will most likely surpass the six-million mark as suggested.
Lee is a solid player whose physical-like playing style would certainly help solidify the Devils top-six. However, a price tag above $6 million is a huge investment, especially when it’ll most likely be for five or more years. All-in-all, the Devils should look to stay away from Lee if the price tag is in that predicted range. If, for some reason, general manager Ray Shero can sway Lee to take a more reasonable amount