New York Islanders forward Brock Nelson is set to return on a one-year contract for the biggest season of his career.
Nelson has been a consistent 20-goal scorer for the Islanders over the last few seasons. This past year was the only campaign where he failed to reach the 20-goal mark since the 2013-14 season. He tallied 19 goals and 35 total points.
Throughout his tenure, the forward has been relegated to the middle-six group where he’s developed very streaky gameplay. Nelson picked up five of his 19 goals in the 2017-18 season in just October. It took him three more months to get another five goals when he finally reached a total of 10 in January.
That is not the type of play the Islanders need if they want to improve as a team for the coming year. However, with new head coach Barry Trotz and general manager Lou Lamoriello at the helm, the 26-year old has a clean slate. The real question is if Trotz can shake Nelson’s inconsistent gameplay. If he can, Nelson has one of the best wrist shots on the team. That nasty wrister was on full display in his first career hat trick.
In addition to his quick release, the latter half of last season saw Nelson pull his best Anders Lee impression. He used his size and muscle in front to put in deflections. Especially in his second career hat trick.
At $4.25 million, it’s relatively easy to move him if he shows value and he doesn’t want to re-sign. The Isles can then get something for him at the deadline instead of letting him walk for nothing. In the event that Nelson thrives under Trotz, the Isles can negotiate a bigger contract with him for the future. This deal leaves the Islanders with $10.559 million in cap space going into next season according to CapFriendly. With the new contract, it’s low-risk, high reward.
Also in the summer of bottom-six signings, the thought of “why not?” comes to mind. Nelson has been banished to the middle-six under former coaches Jack Capuano and Doug Weight. As a center, he’s had a carousel of players on his wing, and as a wing, he’s had a carousel of different centers. With the new bottom-six signings of Jan Kovar, Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, a little competition won’t hurt anybody.
This is Nelson’s make or break year with the Islanders and perhaps the most important season of his entire career. This is the difference between bridge deals until he’s 34 and a big-time contract next summer. If anyone has something to prove, it’s him.