The New York Islanders secured the first of four pending free agents by signing Brock Nelson to a six-year deal.
Lou Lamoriello and the Islanders had been “really grinding away” for the last several weeks to finish an extension. Nelson was one of the Islanders most productive forwards this post-season and arguably most consistent center all year.
Nelson re-joined the Islanders heading into the 2018-19 season on a one-year, $4.25 million “prove-it” deal. Prior to the regime change from Garth Snow to Lamoriello, it was unsure if Nelson would have returned.
Under Barry Trotz, Nelson had a career season and reached the 20-goal mark for the fourth time in the last five seasons (25). Having played all 82 games in the last two seasons, Nelson set career-highs in assists (28), points (53), and plus/minus (20).
Nelson’s six-year contract extension grants him $6 million AAV through the 2024-25 season.
Through the 2018-19 season, Nelson was the Islanders’ best and most consistent forward, frequently taking the assignment of top-line center. Under Trotz, Nelson emerged as a true two-dimensional forward, increasing his defensive responsibility and physical prowess.
“I said, ‘I always looked at you as an opposing coach and I thought you had more,’” Trotz told Staple on Saturday. “‘I don’t know you, I’m not with you day in and day out, but I always thought there was more.’
“In the past, people in the organization could tell you better, but I don’t think there was enough appreciation for his game,” Trotz said. “They wanted him to be something he wasn’t in that third hole. We played them a few times a year, in the playoffs, I always thought there was a better player in there.”
Judging by Nelson’s career year in his first with Trotz, the sentiment is mutual.
With Nelson on the books for the next six years, the Islanders turn their attention to their remaining three big-name unrestricted free agents. Nelson’s extension leaves the Islanders with $29.2 million in cap to keep at least two of Anders Lee, Robin Lehner, and Jordan Eberle.