Should the New York Islanders try to sign center and pending unrestricted free agent Brock Nelson, or should they try to trade him?
The New York Islanders are already in contract negotiations with captain and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Anders Lee. Giving him the ‘C’ was a dead give away that the Islanders wanted to keep him around long term. So the expectation is that a deal will be done soon.
So what about fellow pending UFA Brock Nelson? The 27-year-old first line center signed a single year deal in the offseason and is months away from facing free agency. When do the Islanders open up negotiations with Brock Nelson?
Or do they even open them up in the first place?
Brock Nelson is having a great year so far under Barry Trotz. He’s skating hard. He’s getting in on the forecheck and on the backcheck. He’s committed night-and-night-out.
He’s also putting up numbers. Through 30 games Nelson has 20 points, putting him on pace for 55 points this season. That would be a career high for Brock Nelson.
But based on his four previous years of NHL hockey some don’t feel its wise to extend Brock Nelson whose putting up numbers in a contract year. There are four years of data showing what kind of player Brock is. The sample size of a good Brock Nelson is too small to support paying him what would certainly be a cap hit above $5 million a season.
So trade him. Right?
We’re only in December and while Brock is on pace to destroy his previous career high he’s only put up two points over his last eight games. That’s a problem and supports the theory that Brock is the same player he’s always been.
But trading him away presents a problem. The Islanders don’t have any centers to fill in at either the 1C or 2C slot on the roster after Mathew Barzal. Leaving a sizeable gap down the middle of the lineup.
The New York Islanders would have to use Brock Nelson as the main piece of a package to acquire a better centerman in return. Or hope they can attract a big fish centerman in free agency. In terms of free agent centers, Matt Duchene is the biggest name out there as a pending free agent in 2019.
If the Islanders could swing a trade for Matt Duchene, or a similar player, that would certainly help the team improve in Brock’s wake.
Brock Nelson already makes $4.25 million on the cap. You’d have to imagine that any long-term contract extension would have to start at $5 million.
Is a $5 million cap hit for at best a 55 point center worth it? Probably. But only if we knew that Brock Nelson could be a 55 point player for years to come. Again, over his last eight games, Brock Nelson has two points. That doesn’t instill me with any sort of confidence.
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Based on his current form I’m getting cold feet when it comes to giving Brock Nelson a contract extension. Perhaps it’s just a cold streak that he’ll soon break out from, but two points in eight games aren’t good. After a great November, Brock is settling into old habits in December. A trade up on for a center might be the best avenue for the Islanders.