Brock Nelson (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Brock Nelson beat the sophomore slump by posting a career-best 20-goal, 42-point season in 2014-15, yet he remains a restricted free agent with training camp only days away. If Nelson doesn’t sign by Thursday, the Islanders could be prepared to play without the 23-year-old for the entire season.
In his second full season in the NHL, Brock Nelson became a 20-goal, 40-point player for the New York Islanders. But Islanders faithful hoping to see what kind of campaign Nelson can follow his sophomore season with might have to cross their fingers that a last-minute deal gets done.
In an interview with Newsday’s Arthur Staple, Nelson’s agent Ron Salcer said he hasn’t spoken with Islanders GM Garth Snow in six weeks.
"Garth and I talked six weeks ago after they made an offer, which was nowhere near commensurate with what players like Brock are making,” Salcer told Staple. “Garth said he'd get back to me and that was it. No negotiations whatsoever.”
Nelson, 23, is looking for a new deal following the expiration of his entry-level deal this summer. Nelson turned down the Islanders qualifying offer earlier this summer hoping for a longer term, higher-money deal, but that contract has yet to materialize. And now there’s cause for concern that Nelson may be sitting out more than just a few games.
As Staple points out, the Islanders under owner Charles Wang have instituted a hard deadline when it comes to free agents entering camp. With Wang’s Islanders, those who haven’t signed by the time camp starts are out for the season. Yes, you read that right: if Nelson and the Islanders don’t reach a deal, he could be sitting out the entire campaign.
In speaking with Staple, Salcer brought up four players who have been in similar situations: Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund, Montreal’s Alex Galchenyuk, Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad and Carolina’s Elias Lindholm. Each of those players has a new deal coming their way in which they’ll make at least $2.6-million per season.
"I don't want to get into numbers, but for the first year, it's half of what players similar to Brock are making," Salcer told Staple. "And in [a] year [or] two, it's a third of what players similar to Brock are making . . . We're not being unreasonable. This is all their doing."
When it comes to advanced statistics, it looks like Nelson actually has a good case, too. Already, he has shown skill at both ends of the ice and was relied upon for heavy defensive-zone starts for the Islanders. In nearly 940 minutes at 5-on-5 this past season, he managed 10 goals and 24 points and produced 1.54 points per 60 minutes at even strength, a rate better than names like Tomas Hertl, Gustav Nyquist and Jeff Skinner.
For Nelson to sign a deal, he’s probably asking for somewhere in the $2.6-million range, which would put him alongside the four players Salcer mentioned. And in the company Nelson has kept statistically, he has more than earned it.
What the play is from the Islanders side is uncertain. With more $8.5-million in cap space, they have the room to sign Nelson, but internal budget constraints could be keeping them from inking the RFA left winger.
Salcer told Staple he has reached out to the Islanders in hopes of getting the ball rolling again before camp opens. If the two sides reach a deal is another story, however. If they can’t, Islanders fans may have to be prepared for Nelson’s contract talks to drag on well into the campaign.