Nielsen spent the last five seasons with the Red Wings after spending a decade as a member of the Islanders. When he first joined Detroit, he was a capable two-way center that gave them some extra depth in the top six. He wasn’t bad in the offensive end in his first two seasons there, notching 17 and 16 goals respectively but his production fell off sharply after that. Last season, Nielsen suited up in just 29 contests, scoring only once while chipping in with five assists in a little over 12 minutes a game on average.
That type of production is hardly worth the $5.25MM AAV he was carrying which resulted in Detroit buying him out this summer. The cumulative cap hit ($4.25MM this season, $500K next) is almost the same and the move only saved them $500K in actual money plus a contract slot but it was a move that still made sense for them with how far his stock had fallen.
Considering he didn’t have any takers for a PTO and will turn 38 in April, there’s a very high chance that this is the end of the line for Nielsen in the NHL. Assuming that is the case, he’ll finish up with 473 points in 925 games between New York and Detroit. Not a bad career for a late third-round pick (87th overall) back in 2002; Nielsen has the sixth-most points and the eighth-most games played of anyone from that draft class.