It’s no secret to Islanders fans that what happened to the team this past July 1st when franchise player John Tavares walked away for nothing to fulfill a “childhood dream” can never happen again. It’s also no secret to Islanders fans that Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle will both be UFAs this summer.
The difference is, Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders must learn from what happened and make sure that they handle the situation differently with these two players.
Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle are two of the best forwards on the Islanders, and will certainly be looked at by many other teams if they hit free agency on July 1st, 2019. The Islanders need to make sure that they possess the power in this situation, and not give the power to the player like Garth Snow gave to John Tavares.
If Lamoriello wants to keep them, he must look them both in the eyes and say “look, we’d love to keep you here, but if we don’t reach an agreement before the Trade Deadline, we have to trade you.” That’s it. No ifs, ands or buts about it. Period. If the two of them want to test the free agent market like Pajama Boy wanted to do, then that’s it, they must be traded.
Arthur Staple said it on the finale of Destination Hockey. If an ultimatum cannot be reached, a trade must be made.
This franchise cannot afford to lose more pieces for nothing. Although it’d be nice to keep them both through the season if they can’t come to an agreement, trading them is a must. It is important to get assets for the future and you can’t sacrifice that by risking losing a player to free agency.
In my opinion, it’s not in the Islanders best interest to keep both of them on long-term deals. If I was Lou Lamoriello, I’d be looking to sign Lee for around four-years and Eberle for around two. This is because Eberle has shown some inconsistencies in the past and it’d be hard to commit to him for over 2-3 years. Lee is a great player but could start to decline once he reaches his thirties. A four-year deal would be perfect for him.
Locking up both these players to very long-term deals is a bad idea.
Heading into training camp, Lou must make the message to these players clear, and whatever they want to do is up to them, but at the end of the day, if they aren’t signed by the deadline, they must be traded.