Saturday, a Danish news outlet reported that the Islanders were in negotiations with Frans Nielsen, citing a conversation with his agent. That news by itself isn’t a major revelation, as both Nielsen and the Islanders were likely to eventually settle but it is still the first talk we’ve heard from either camp. There is one thing the news did; it brought to forefront that the Islanders will have yet another important off-season when it comes to retaining their own.
This was supposed to be the first summer the Islanders would have to negotiate with John Tavares, but a nicely played extension last year will put that question off for a long time. Now, the Islanders have two other significant decisions left at the forward position; PA Parenteau and Frans Nielsen.
It seems that Nielsen, a life-long Islander, in light of yesterday’s news will almost automatically be retained. The question is of course over length and money. With Brian Rolston’s $5 million cap hit and Brendan Witt’s buyout both coming off the books the Islanders are going to have to spend money, even if their only destination is the cap floor. Nielsen is one of the team’s “core” that management talks about, and his contract should come in the vicinity of Kyle Okposo and Michael Grabner’s contracts last year. The former got 5 years at $14 million and the latter 5 years at $15 million. Length shouldn’t be an issue and Nielsen should get around the same length at around $13 million. Seeing Nielsen playing on the third line behind Ryan Strome and John Tavares in a few years would make the Islanders more solidified up the middle than they’ve been since the days of Turgeon and Flatley.
For Parenteau, the negotiation gets a bit trickier. He’s going to be coming off a monster year no matter what. He’s on pace for more than 70 points and should surpass last year’s career high of 53 easily – he’s already got 41. The 28-year old from Hull, Quebec is an interesting case too. He’s a late bloomer, one of the many castaways that the Islanders have been able to spin into gold. Parenteau earned a one-year deal after least season, the same ‘show us you can do it again’ that Blake Comeau got. This one panned out juuuuust a bit differently.
As for comparables for a 70 point set-up wing Dallas’ Loui Eriksson comes to mind. The Stars’ 26-year old put up 29-42-71 in 2009-10 and 27-46-73 last season. After scoring more than 30 goals in 2008-09, the Stars inked Eriksson to a six-year extension totaling $25.5 million ($4.25 million/year). Eriksson is more of a goal scorer than Parenteau but his numbers are similar.
Boston’s David Krejci may be a better comparable than Eriksson. Krejci is a passing wizard who has averaged 45 helpers and 62 points over the last three years in Beantown. He was given a three year extension for nearly $16 million this past summer. It will certainly be more expensive to re-sign Parenteau than Nielsen as the offensive numbers are an easier talking point than defensive metrics but Parenteau shouldn’t come close to Krejci’s $5.25 million average salary.
Regardless of whether you credit Parenteau’s numbers to playing alongside John Tavares much of the last two seasons or not, 70 points scorers don’t come to Long Island very often. And that’s the biggest point here. The Islanders cannot easily replace Parenteau or Nielsen.
They will not be able to lure a defensive center with a deadly backhand (talk about things that don’t grow on proverbial trees) to Long Island via free agency. It would be a long time and a bit of a crap shoot to try and draft one. After all, Nielsen himself is a third rounder not to mention also a Mike Milbury Miracle.
There is no 70-point scorer who is going to sign up to play in Long Island on July 1st. Those players are either already locked up or are simply not coming to Long Island. Nino Niederreiter could get there but that’s a couple years away, if he pans out.
Fans love to go round and round about the Islanders poor off-season acquisitions from summer 2011; Brian Rolston, Marty Reasoner at the forefront. And that’s going to be the quality of player that the team will be able to lure here until either the arena situation is situated or the team is a contender.
There is no quick replacement for PA Parenteau or Frans Nielsen. The Islanders must do what they can to retain them. The report on Nielsen was a good first step. Hopefully there will be more to come soon.