Is Trading Brock Nelson The Right Route For Islanders To Go?

May 16, 2024
May 16, 2024 Stefen Rosner

The New York Islanders’ offseason is full of many questions after being bounced from the First Round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs following a five-game duel against the Carolina Hurricanes. 

One decision that Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello will have to make is how he wants to handle forward Brock Nelson.

Entering the final year of his contract, does Lamoriello sign his 32-year-old leading goal scorer to an extension, which he can on July 1, or does Lou look to move Nelson, given his trade value, to help the club get younger?

During Hockey Night in New York’s season finale, Stefen Rosner and Sean Cuthbert shared their thoughts on what trading Nelson would mean for the franchise.

Keeping the conversation going, Stefen and Sean had more to say regarding Nelson:

Stefen’s Thoughts: 

If the Islanders are serious about taking steps forward as a franchise, getting rid of a consistent 30-plus goal scorer who hasn’t slowed down, at least offensively, despite being on the other side of 30, doesn’t make much sense.

I get the move from a trade value standout.

If the Islanders aren’t going to re-sign Nelson, then, of course, they should acquire assets before he walks out the door next summer.

But if Nelson is gone by the start of the 2024-25 season, who fills that production?

After Zach Parise decided not to return to the island for the 2023-24 season—ultimately signing with the Colorado Avalanche to chase a Stanley Cup—filling his 21-goal production wasn’t going to be easy.

Second-year NHLer Simon Holmstrom scored 15 after just six in his rookie season, with rookie Kyle MacLean and second-year Islander Hudson Fasching adding four to overcome the Parise loss.

It essentially took three players to make up for Parise’s absence.

While Holmstrom and MacLean could play more minutes and ultimately produce more, making up 30 goals will be a tough challenge, one I’m not sure Islanders could overcome.

If Lamoriello doesn’t think his core is strong enough to get the club to the next level and wants to improve, moving Nelson for picks and prospects only makes sense if they are using their newfound $6 million in cap space to get a younger centerman or winger that can pot 20-25 goals in 2024-25.

They could try to get an NHL-ready player back, either a top-six forward or a strong transitioning defender, and use the rest of the money to upgrade elsewhere.

Nelson’s 34 goals this past season were 10th best among NHL centermen, and his 107 goals over the last three seasons also placed him 10th.

Follow Stefen on Twitter at @stefen_rosner

Here’s what Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said during his end-of-the-year press conference when asked if he believes his core is good enough to get the team to the next level:

“I don’t know if I can answer that question. First of all, change is inevitable. It’s obvious. We do look at the roster,” Lamoriello said. “There are some younger players coming in. They’re going to demand more ice time, and we will make whatever changes are necessary to get better. Are we satisfied where we are? Absolutely not. We will make whatever changes that we’re able to make to make this a better team.”

Sean’s Thoughts:

Look, there’s a lot of risk involved in dealing Nelson.

He’s the team’s leading goal scorer over the last five seasons and exactly what you want as your mainstay second-line center. He averaged over 35 goals in his last three campaigns and tied for the lead in goals over the Islanders’ last five playoff appearances (and let’s not forget his penchant for scoring a good number of those goals in clutch moments).

Needless to say, he’s been a vital part of the Islanders offense.

But even with those impressive numbers in mind and two more 30-goal scorers alongside him in Horvat and Palmieri this season, the Islanders still only managed to place 22nd overall in a 32-team league in goals scored in ’23-24.

So put yourself in the shoes of a general manager who plans to compete next season and ask yourself, “Is moving my top goal scorer the right way to go?”

I think Lou remains cautious.

That said, there is logic in looking at Nelson’s age, looking down the road, and looking at the cap numbers to reason your way into dealing him elsewhere as he approaches his age 33 season to maximize his value, shed some hefty salary, and put it towards someone younger who can still help now.

We’ll find out soon if Lou takes what I would expect to be the conservative path or gets a little more radical and surprises us by shaking up this core a little more than we thought.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanyhockey

What do you think? Should the Islanders deal Brock Nelson? Let us know on Twitter!

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