New York Islanders

New York Islanders’ general manager Garth Snow should have his hands full this off season when both Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo become free agents.

By Justin Weiss

While New York Islanders’ fans speculate about the future of Travis Hamonic and a complimentary winger for John Tavares, general manager Garth Snow will have to think about what his team could look like next season.

As things currently stand, the Isles will have ten impending free agents after the season concludes.

While some are less of a priority than others (Steve Bernier, Eric Boulton, Brian Strait and Marek Židlický to name a few), Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo will rank at the top of the list. Both players are performing at a very high level this season.

It’s certainly encouraging that Snow has two legitimate skaters to choose from.

But with a number contracts soon to expire, New York will likely have to part ways with at least one of the two players.

And that’s a dang shame because both have been integral parts of this team’s success over the past two seasons.

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Frans Nielsen

Player Team Season Adj. Salary G/60 A/60 P/60
F. Nielsen NYI 2015-16 3.622 0.86 0.86 1.72
Player Team Season Adj. Salary G/60 A/60 P/60
V. Stalberg CHI 2010-11 0.785 0.83 0.83 1.66
S. Bergenheim TB 2010-11 0.7 0.8 0.8 1.59
M. Sturm BOS 2007-08 4.968 0.92 0.92 1.84
A. Miettinen MIN 2009-10 2.933 0.84 0.84 1.67
M. Letestu PIT 2010-11 0.5 0.76 0.93 1.7

(Chart as of Thursday, January 14, 2016. Viktor Stalberg was 24-years-old, Sean Bergenheim was 26, Marco Sturm was 29, Antti Miettinen was 29, and Mark Letestu was 25.)

Nielsen, 31, is in the midst of a career year.

With 14 goals and 14 assists in 45 games, he, along with Okposo and Brock Nelson, have picked up for John Tavares who has struggled throughout most of the 2015-16 campaign.

Frans Nielsen spoke with Dan Rice of and had this to say:

“We have a bunch of guys on this team that have been through it from day one of this rebuild; it’s been some tough years. I think we all appreciate it even more but at the same time GM Garth (Snow) has been keeping this core together. It’s been fun winning with those guys that you are trying to improve every year with — becoming your best friends.”

So should the likable Danish forward be paid by Snow? And if so, how much will he make?

Using War-On-Ice’s Similarity Scores (brought to my attention by a Lighthouse Hockey article last June on the same topic) one can analyze what a player of Nielsen or Okposo’s caliber has received.

It should be noted that there are caveats with this list as it’s assuming that a certain player will replicate their 2015-16 performance over the next couple of seasons.

As one can tell, Nielsen is older than all of the other players on this list. For that reason alone it would be harder to envision him receiving a long term deal.

Also, most of the players on this list have either had their contracts bought out or have quickly lost relevance in the National Hockey League.

That being said, it would be shocking if Nielsen doesn’t get at least a three-year deal. He’s a well-rounded player who has natural chemistry with many of the guys in the locker room.

Additionally, he’s never spoken poorly about the team and has always carried himself with class and dignity, something Snow seems to look for.

The center is currently making $2.75M, and will become a UFA after the season.

Kyle Okposo

Player Team Season Adj. Salary G/60 A/60 P/60
K. Okposo NYI 2015-16 4.6570 0.53 1.27 1.80
Player Team Season Adj. Salary G/60 A/60 P/60
S. Doan ARI 2009-10 5.72 0.53 1.22 1.74
E. Staal CAR 2011-12 8.606 0.58 1.3 1.87
J. Langenbrunner NJ 2009-10 3.52 0.41 1.29 1.7
R. Clowe SJ 2009-10 4.4 0.64 1.22 1.86
A. Kostitsyn MTL 2010-11 4.085 0.61 1.15 1.76

(Chart as of Thursday, January 14, 2016. Shane Doan was 32-years-old, Eric Staal was 26, Jamie Langenbrunner was 34, Ryan Clowe was 26, and Andrei Kostitsyn was 24.)

Okposo, 27, is coming off of an injury-ravaged season.

While he has posted some solid stats in 2015-16 (11 goals and 22 assists in 43 games) there are still concerns about a retina injury he suffered last season.

Okposo has also had a bit of an inconsistent start on both sides of the ice this season.

Okposo spoke with Arthur Staple of Newsday about his comeback from detached retina surgery:

“Every day, especially after the eye surgery, every day I can play hockey is definitely nice. I’m happy I have my sight and I’m able to play. Now that I do, you have to help your team any way you can.”

With that being said, what is the likelihood of Okie being re-signed and how much will he realistically make?

As the table displays, Okposo is in the same category as many established veterans of the National Hockey League. He’s always had an eye for creating opportunities and his impressive A/60 total is a testament to that.

In addition, most of the guys on this list have racked up north of $4.5M a season their next contract.

It was reported that Okposo could be looking for a contract worth anywhere from $5-$8M, although he’ll be the first to tell you that he isn’t letting any trade rumors or contract speculation get in his head.

Okposo spoke with Arthur Staple in September about his contract:

“It’s pretty hard not to (hear the talk) when you go somewhere and everyone’s asking you whether you’re going to be traded or not, it’s part of the business and I’m not naive to that. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Okposo goes on to say:

“Am I upset about it? No. There’s things that upset you on a daily basis in this business and you just have to go with it. As far as contracts, trade speculation, I don’t want that to be a distraction. I just want to go out and play the game.”

The winger is currently making $2.8M, and will become a UFA after this season.

NEXT: NHL: Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane Thriving Under League’s Obscurity

Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.