Step One: Trade Brock Nelson
This one hurts the most. A fan favorite and lifetime Islander, many feel a personal attachment to Brock Nelson. But Nelson is the one piece that is not signed long-term and has value on the trade market, so any retooling would start by dealing Brock at the deadline.
Nelson currently has one year left on his contract, with a $6M salary cap hit (but only a $4M salary). For a strong second-line center like Nelson, that is a bargain, and teams like Colorado, Boston, Winnipeg, Arizona, and Minnesota would line up to bid. The price for Nelson could include a 2024 first-rounder, a good prospect, and a roster player. That price will only go down after the trade deadline. After all, this offseason, Nelson will be a soon-to-be 33-year-old with only one year on his contract. Getting Nelson on an affordable cap hit for two playoff runs is the key to his trade value.
The Isles could even expand the return by including somebody like Sebastian Aho in a deal. Aho is playing on an $825,000 expiring contract, which would be desirable for most contenders.
Hypothetical deal: Islanders trade center Brock Nelson to Bruins for center John Beecher, a 2025 first-round draft pick, and a 2026 second-round draft pick.