The Islanders cannot afford to lose Frans Nielsen
The Islanders may be losing Kyle Okposo, but it is imperative that they do not go the same route with Frans Nielsen. As the 2015-2016 season began, it seemed likely that the 32 year old center would re-sign with the team, but now, only 13 days until free agency, that is all but certain.
Nielsen has been a cog in the Islanders lineup for almost a decade. Drafted 87th overall in 2002, he made his debut in 2006-2007 and became a main contributor in 2008-2009. In 606 games, Nielsen has tallied 349 points, but he is more known for his two-way game and work on the penalty kill. He and Nikolay Kulemin were often the first deployed on the Isles’ fourth rated penalty kill (84.5%). Losing Nielsen to that penalty kill is replaceable, but it would require another outside addition as Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, or Josh Bailey cannot assume that role. It would just require spending money elsewhere rather than on Nielsen, the man who did it, himself.
Along with his penalty kill prowess, Nielsen has been one of the most consistent point producers on the team in the eight full seasons he has spent here. He has picked up the pace tremendously in the past three seasons, with 58 points, 43 points, and 52 points respectively.
Nielsen also provides leadership on a team devoid of it in many respects. For the past few years, Nielsen has worn an “A” and has been considered a veteran by the club. On a team filled with young players such as Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and eventually Michael Dal Colle, Mathew Barzal, and other, this is important.
Nielsen is not an easy player to replace, and as the hours go along in July, it’ll be harder and harder to bring him back. With a weak free agent class, a first class two-way player like Nielsen will surely get a nice chunk of change somewhere. Garth Snow has to do everything in his power to keep Frans Nielsen, no mater if the cost drifts into the 4.5 to 5 million per range.
If the Islanders are serious about competing, they’ll have a Dane wearing number 51 on the opening night roster next year.