Nielsen’s ‘first choice’ is to re-sign with Isles


Frans Nielsen is a popular answer to the question, “Who is the NHL’s most underrated player?”

The 31-year-old Islanders center is also a pending unrestricted free agent, one who’s in line for a significant raise from his current annual salary of just $3.5 million. This season, his 47 points are the third most on the team, behind only John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, Plus, he’s a valuable penalty killer.

Nielsen would like to re-sign with the Isles.

“I feel like I’m in a good spot here, we have a good team and hopefully we can work it out here,” he said, per the New York Post. “That, for sure, would be my first choice.”

But Nielsen is just one of many key players that Isles GM Garth Snow will need to decide on. Okposo is also a pending UFA. Tavares will need a new contract after the 2017-18 season. In fact, no Isles forward, save for Anders Lee, is signed past 2017-18.

Meanwhile, it’s still not clear what’s going to happen with d-man Travis Hamonic — if he’s traded this summer, what comes back in return? — and some even think the Isles are a dark horse to pursue Steven Stamkos should the Lightning captain go to market.

With Nielsen, term has the potential to be a sticking point. He turns 32 in April and the Isles have a number of talented young forwards in the system who will be knocking on the door very soon.

But, again, he wants to stay, and that can only help negotiations, assuming the Isles would like to re-sign him.

“I just feel that I’ve been through this rebuild with all these guys and we finally have a team here,” he said. “For me, my first choice is to stay here and to keep building this team toward a Stanley Cup.”