Islanders Sign Nelson to Contract Extension

The New York Islanders have signed forward Brock Nelson to a six-year contract extension, the team announced Thursday. According to Arthur Staple of The Athletic, this deal carries a $6 million cap hit. Staple would also say that the money aspect of the deal is a win for the Islanders as he would have gotten closer to $7 million annually on the open market.

The 27-year-old Nelson scored 25 goals and a career-high 53 points with the Islanders last season in 82 games. He’d also record four goals in eight playoff games.

The 30th-pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Nelson has been a very effective player for the Islanders since making his regular season debut in 2013-14 when he’d score 14 goals and 26 points in 72 games as a rookie. Since then, Nelson has scored at least 20 goals in four of his next five seasons and narrowly missing the mark with 19 goals during the 2017-18 season.

Brock Nelson - Islanders
Brock Nelson has signed a six-year contract worth $36 million to remain with the New York Islanders for the long-term after having a career-year in 2018-19, September 17, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Before making the jump to the NHL, Nelson would play two seasons at the University of North Dakota. In that time he’d score a very impressive 36 goals and 68 points in 84 games, including 28 goals and 47 points in 42 games in his second collegiate season en route to North Dakota’s second consecutive Western Collegiate Hockey Association Championship.

Internationally, Nelson has also found success while representing Team USA at four IIHF World Championship tournaments as well as at the World Junior Championships.

In 32 IIHF games, Nelson would score 16 goals and 28 points and helped the team win a bronze medal with six goals and a team-leading 10 points in 2015. He’d also win Bronze at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo in 2011.

Islanders Committing to Contention

For the Islanders, this deal was almost a necessity. Nelson played top-six center minutes for the Islanders throughout the 2018-19 season and proved to be one of their most important pieces following the departure of John Tavares in free agency last year.

While many expected the Islanders to take a major step backward as a result of their captain and best player leaving for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Islanders actually did the opposite and took a monumental step forward. They’d finish with a 48-27-7 record, tied for wins with the Washington Capitals who finished first in the Metropolitan Division while earning 103 points.

Josh Bailey, Andrew Ladd, Adam Pelech, Brock Nelson
New York Islanders’ Andrew Ladd, Josh Bailey, Adam Pelech and Brock Nelson celebrate following a goal against the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In the postseason, the Islanders would get off to a hot start with a shocking sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round before ultimately falling to the Carolina Hurricanes via a sweep themselves.

Despite this unfortunate end to what was an impressive season, the Islanders realized that they have the potential to be more than what people anticipated and rather than letting Nelson go, they committed to competing in the present.

Ideally, the Islanders would have preferred less term on this contract as Nelson will be 33 by the time the deal is done. With that said, the team got a very respectable cap number for Nelson at $6 million annually and the thought process has to be on the present rather than the distant future with a team looking to compete right now.

It’s possible the Islanders take a step back next season after their surprising 2018-19 campaign, but it’s also distinctly possible that they take another step forward and cement themselves as contenders in the Eastern Conference. Either way, retaining Nelson was the only option for the team.