The past few seasons have been a bumpy ride for the New York Islanders, plagued by injuries and inconsistency. It’s kept them from making any deep playoff runs, something they did with relatively high frequency throughout the late 2010s and early 2020s.
One player who hasn’t let any outside noise affect him is center Brock Nelson. He’s recorded career-best offensive totals in each of the last two seasons, eclipsing the 35-goal mark for the first time in 2021-22 and the 70-point mark for the first time in 2022-23. With Nelson locked in for just two more seasons at a rather affordable $6MM cap hit, some had wondered if his name could be in trade talks with the Islanders’ roster tight to the salary cap. Today, however, The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz shut down all speculation of a move in his latest mailbag, calling any trade rumors involving Nelson “utter nonsense.”
Many people didn’t have Nelson transforming into a number-one center overnight in his 30s on their bingo cards, but that’s exactly what’s happened. He’s one of the team’s most valuable forwards, often overlooked in favor of higher-profile names like Bo Horvat and Mathew Barzal. His role next season will be to help boost the production of the team’s better secondary scorers like Kyle Palmieri and Pierre Engvall, a line that was rather effective down the stretch of the 2022-23 regular season.
More from Kurz on some pressing Islanders topics today:
- The Islanders’ weakest position when it comes to organizational depth is inarguably goaltending. While the team boasts one of the best NHL-level tandems in Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, their minor-league netminding leaves much to be desired, and Kurz notes the Islanders are absolutely still in the market for a veteran third-string goaltender. Currently, the starting job in AHL Bridgeport is slated for 23-year-old Jakub Skarek, who’s yet to post above a .896 save percentage throughout four seasons in the minors. Kurz names Jaroslav Halak, Brian Elliott, Martin Jones, and Alex Stalock as options with notable NHL experience still looking for a home who may have to settle for a minor-league role.
- One player who went into last season with high expectations was defenseman Robin Salo, the team’s 2017 second-round pick. He made the Islanders out of camp but didn’t stick, recording four points in 11 games throughout the first part of the season before the team assigned him to Bridgeport permanently in January. He posted just 14 assists in 38 games with Bridgeport, though, failing to score a goal throughout the entire season. After a rough year, Kurz says he’d be surprised to see Salo make the opening night roster again next season and thinks he’s slipped pretty far down the team’s depth chart of left-shot defenders. He also went so far as to call Salo a trade candidate and that if he’s not moved, the team may not issue him a qualifying offer next offseason.