The New York Islanders are six points out of a playoff spot at the All-Star Break.
They are currently situated ninth in the Eastern Conference in points but are 11th in points percentage, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, and even Washington Capitals ahead of them after the team went 3-8-1 in January and are 4-8-3 since the Christmas break.
If you were a betting man, you would put the Islanders' chances of making the playoffs below 50%, maybe far below. This is why the question of whether they should be sellers at the trade deadline if they fall out of contention is already being raised.
Around this time last year, we anticipated that they would be sellers with Semyon Varlamov and Scott Mayfield as unrestricted free agents. As we know, not only did they make an "all-in" move for Bo Horvat, but also later resigned both players to long-term contracts in the summer.
When you look at the roster and what players could bring back meaningful assets, one stands out from the rest, and that's Minnesota-born, homegrown lifelong Islander Brock Nelson.
The 32-year-old leads the team with 21 goals after scoring 36 and 37 in the prior two seasons. Despite not playing with the team's top playmakers, Nelson continues to be the closest thing to a sure thing the team has for goal scoring.
Would Nelson bring back a huge return? Absolutely. Look no further than what the Vancouver Canucks gave up for Elias Lindholm, who is younger (29), but a rental and was having a down season for the Calgary Flames. The price tag was a first-round pick, F Andrei Kuzmenko, two recent draftees, and a fourth-round pick.
That could be an argument for why the Islanders should put Nelson, who has another year left on a six-year extension signed after the 2018-19 season, on the trading block. The return would help replenish the team's shallow prospect recently, ranked dead last by The Athletic's Scott Wheeler due to the lack of top-tier talent.
However, if the Islanders find themselves marred in mediocrity again next season, that type of return, or something similar, should also be on the table. Nelson has a 16-team no-trade clause, but if the Islanders change course, he would likely bring back a similar package if his production keeps pace.
The former 2010 1st round pick has been a great Islander who blossomed into a solid contributor and perennial 30-goal scorer in recent years. However, another year of so-so hockey should force the organization's hand to make some drastic changes, and moving Nelson for draft capital and perhaps an NHL-ready player makes too much sense to ignore.
Am I completely opposed to the idea of trading Nelson? No. I just feel that next season is when you make a decision on trading Nelson, not now. Not after only a handful of games into Patrick Roy's tenure as coach, and you don't move him unless you're ready to sell off other pieces, such as Kyle Palmieri and JG Pageau, at the same time.
If you remove your leading goal scorer from the team's core, you're essentially punting on next season, and there's no reason to prematurely do that without knowing the impact Roy can have on this group and where they'll be at next year's trade deadline.
If there then where they are now, then next season could be his last on Long Island.