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New York Islanders

New York Islanders Offseason a Key Turning Point for Franchise Direction



lou lamoriello New York islanders
New York Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello responds to questions after the second day of the NHL hockey draft Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Entering the 2024 offseason, the New York Islanders have two key decisions to make.

Star center Brock Nelson and breakout star defenseman Noah Dobson will both be entering the final year of their contracts and will be able to sign an extension starting on July 1.

What the Islanders choose to do could end up being franchise defining.

Nelson and Dobson are different trajectories.

Dobson, 24, crushed his career-high in assists (60) and points (70) in 70 games in 2023-24, having a legitimate case in the Norris Trophy discussion all the while.

He stayed around the 50-point mark the previous two seasons, signing a three-year deal with a $4 million annual cap hit in the 2022 offseason, before breaking out on both ends of the ice.

The question with the pending restricted free agent won’t be if he is re-signed but how much he will be re-signed for.

Per Jeff Marek, that extension could be worth as much as $8 million per year.

Nelson, 32, is coming off of his third consecutive 30-goal season and is entering the final year of a six-year deal worth $6 million that he signed in the summer of 2019.

He has been one of the most consistent goal-scorers in New York Islanders history, recently passing John Tavares for 7th on the franchise’s all-time leaderboard for goals and finishing the regular season with 275 total.

But is that consistent level of production enough to warrant another raise that could potentially age poorly?

The same happened for Anders Lee after a 40-goal season made way for a seven-year deal worth $7 million per season.

Lee, 33, has not cracked the 30-goal mark since, only coming as far to hit the 28-goal mark three times.

While Nelson’s game has already shown to age more gracefully than Lee’s, Father Time comes knocking eventually.

And for an Islanders team which has younger pieces like Dobson, Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat, Alexander Romanov Band Ilya Sorokin to build around, they could find a trade for Nelson in the offseason to potentially bring in pieces to extend their Stanley Cup window.

That said, Nelson holds a 16-team no-trade list entering this offseason and a trade involving a player of his caliber should not be done unless they can recoup assets that can help them immediately.

Replacing a 30-goal scorer is tough, and the Islanders would likely not be getting one back in the deal, but if they can acquire a roster player in the deal and use the new-found cap space to sign someone who can help fill the gap, it could be worthwhile.

The return the Pittsburgh Penguins got for Jake Guentzel, namely a roster player like Michael Bunting, should be what Lou Lamoriello seeks in a deal if he is able to go that route.

Either way, the 2024 and 2025 offseasons will be crucial in how the Islanders go about the future.

Do they run it back and hope to reach the heights of the 2020 and 2021 teams which reached the Eastern Conference finals or do they try and get younger and extend the window around Dobson, Barzal and Sorokin?

Only time will tell.

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Sign Dobson…. trade Nelson for whatever you can get for him. This team needs to get younger, tougher, and faster…. none of which an aging Nelson will bring if signed long term.

Mike B.

The time to have traded Nelson was the trade deadline and not this off-season. The Islanders were not winning the Cup this year, and I do believe they would have gotten significant more value had they done so. Granted the cap situation is not friendly to us right now, but IF the NYI run this same team back next year, that will be a BIG and TOUGH sell for the season ticket holders and casual fans alike. Look, the NYI are a VERY likeable team, but they have proven over the course of the last 3+ seasons that the team… Read more »

Paul Frishman

How is Nelson in “the final year of an eight year deal he signed in 2019”?