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New York Islanders and the Curious Case of Brock Nelson

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Vegas Golden Knights attempts to hit the puck as Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders hovers above at the Barclays Center on December 12, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Golden Knights defeated the Islanders 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 12: Max Pacioretty #67 of the Vegas Golden Knights attempts to hit the puck as Brock Nelson #29 of the New York Islanders hovers above at the Barclays Center on December 12, 2018 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Golden Knights defeated the Islanders 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The New York Islanders have a decision to make regarding Brock Nelson between now and July 1st. Nelson becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season. What do the Isles do regarding the curious case of Brock Nelson?

The New York Islanders coaching staff and the front office have to be pleased with the overall play of Brock Nelson. Nelson has been a good source of offense (12 Goals, 23 Points) and has played a solid two-way game at the center position as well (plus 12 plus-minus).

The question is does Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz think Nelson is a second-line center for the next few years?

The Case For

Nelson has fit in well under Trotz’s system. He is on pace for a 50-point season while playing a complete game. The 27-year old from Warroad, Minnesota has made a strong argument for himself that he should be considered as part of the Isles future.

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The former 1st-round pick (30th Overall, 2010 Draft) has had a history of being inconsistent on a maddening level. Nelson has been known to have hot starts, strong finishes but the middle of the season he tends to disappear.

Given Nelson’s age, how he has fit into Trotz system, and the fact he has been a part of the organization for a number of years now, one can make a strong case to sign him to a multi-year extension.

A new deal for Nelson would probably be a five-year contract with an annual value between $5 – $5.5 million.

Keep in mind the Isles do not have any elite center prospects in their system. While everyone should be excited about the futures of Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows they are wingers.

If the Isles want to improve at the center position in the near future they would have to go outside the organization.

The Case Against

Even if the Isles can get this year’s version of Brock Nelson for the next few seasons, they should want to do better in terms of their top two lines. The Isles need more impact players and getting one at center would go a long way to making this team into a contender.

The thing to consider is it’s much easier said than done when it comes to landing a top center.

Not many impact centers hit unrestricted free agency. As of today the only top center that is slated to become a UFA on July 1st is Matt Duchene. Make no mistake the team that signs Duchene will overpay him both in years and dollars.

The trade route would be costly as well. To land a top center in a trade it would cost the Isles at least one of their top prospects (Wahlstrom or Noah Dobson), Anthony Beauvillier, and something else pretty good (maybe one of their goalie prospects).

While this is a road the Isles should pursue aggressively finding a top center outside the organization will be a costly proposition.

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While one can understand the rationale of signing Nelson, especially given the uncertainty of going the route of outside the organization during the off-season, this is the path that Lou and the Isles must follow. The blue and orange need a top center moving forward.

Furthermore, if Nelson is not part of the Isles plans after this season then he must be traded by the February 25th trade deadline.

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