Believe it or not, Mike Milbury’s presence is still felt on this New York Islanders team. “Mad Mike’s” most successful draft pick is currently having a solid start to the season. But this year could also be the last for 2002 3rd-round draft pick Frans Nielsen in an Islanders uniform.
The Great Dane
Nielsen was poised to build upon his breakout season of 2013-14. In 80 games, Nielsen set career highs with 25 goals and 58 points. Last season turned out to be a disappointment. He played most of the second half of the season with an ankle injury. He played through the injury and missed just 4 games. His production dropped, from 25 to 14 goals and 58 to 43 points. Two of his past strengths suffered as well, face-off wins and shootouts. Nielsen did not use the injury as an excuse though. He vowed to enter this season healthy and ready to go.
The Dane is arguably the Islanders most well-rounded forward now. He is their best defensive forward, has great hands, can skate extremely well, plays both sides on special teams, and is the NHL’s all-time leader with 35 shootout goals.
The longest tenure Islander is in the final year of a 4-year contract worth $11 million dollars. He will be an unrestricted free agent. His cap hit is a very team friendly $2.75 million. Both of those numbers will certainly increase after this season. Nielsen is currently second behind John Tavares for team lead with 8 goals, and is on pace to set a new career high. The Isles have a decision to make. Do they really want to give Nielsen the 4-5 years that he may want? He will turn 32 by the time this season ends, and the Isles have an abundance of centers on the current roster. So many, that natural centers Brock Nelson and Anders Lee have been moved to the wing. While knocking on the door are three of their big-time prospects (Joshua Ho-Sang, Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier), who are also centers.
It is more likely that Nielsen is signed over another unrestricted free agent, Kyle Okposo. Nielsen is four years older than Okposo and less likely to cash in. Although Nielsen is more of an all around player than Okposo. If they are serious about retaining the Dane and he is willing to take a 3-year deal worth 5 million a year. They should get this done sooner than later. Nielsen has been here through rock bottom and the rebuild. I would think he would like to see this thing through.
Noel Fogelman is a 5-time Emmy Winner and started his career working on the Buffalo Sabres Pre and postgame shows for the Empire Sports Network. He then went to Bristol, CT to work at ESPN on NHL2Night and its coverage of the Stanley Cup. Follow me on Twiter @thefirstnoel19