The New York Islanders have a large crop of free agents whose long-term fate will be all-but-decided in the next two weeks.It’s an uncomfortable topic to bring up in the midst of New York Islanders success, but come summertime, they could be down an entire offensive line.
All three, Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle, are all set to hit the market this summer and the Islanders have only been in contact with Lee regarding an extension, per Newsday’s Andrew Gross.
The Isles situation on offense this season, in an adjustment to the style ran by Barry Trotz and company, has taken a hit from last. With their defense going up, their goal-scoring has gone down and every scorer is made that much more valuable.
Aside from Lee, little to no contact has been made for the Eberle/Nelson camp, and one thing is clear as day for all three players — one of them has to go.
If being named captain wasn’t enough of an indication the Islanders wanted to retain the the former 40-goal scorer, both camps have been engaging in contract talks since early December.
For centers, and especially Nelson, his need is magnified even further.
“It’s just kind of playing hockey and seeing how things go,” said Nelson, adding his expectation is to remain with the Islanders past the trade deadline. “Everybody is happy with being here and winning games and we’d like that to continue.”
Heading into the season on a one-year “prove it” type of deal echoed sentiments the Islanders saw last season with defenseman Calvin de Haan.
Riding the wave of a one-year, $4.25 million contract, smart money says that Nelson was ready to take the de Haan route and see the season out prior to last offseason.
Under Head Coach Barry Trotz, Nelson has found new life and is finally playing a more aggressive and well-rounded game than he’s displayed than any of his previous five seasons.
Unlike de Haan, Nelson has had the chance to see first-hand the potential of a Trotz-led Islanders group. Trotz has had a lot of praise for Nelson throughout this season, and if Nelson’s numbers are any indication it seems he’d be open to staying once the conversations come.
There’s a bittersweet emotion evoked at the thought of ending Jordan Eberle‘s tenure with the Islanders just as it’s starting, but such is reality. If the cap had allowed it, there’s a good chance the Isles keep Ebs.
His former and occasionally current linemates Anthony Beauvillier and Mathew Barzal are set for near-imminent paydays and unfortunately it’s a numbers game. Josh Ho-Sang seemed set to replace Ebs as a right-handed winger but has been struggling in the AHL since his demotion.
Should Lou Lamoriello recognize an opportunity to upgrade both short and long-term, Ebs would be the first to be offered by the veteran GM (likely along with the first-round selection). With pending free agents on the line, Islanders fans are pinned for the most eventful trade deadline in a decade.