As the longest tenured Islander, Frans Nielsen cannot envision himself in some other team’s uniform. “No, not right now,” he said, following his exit meeting at breakup day on Tuesday. The potential unrestricted free agent did not even let himself indulge in what could have been his final morning at IceWorks in Syosset.
“It still feels like the season is going a little bit, I guess,” he said as he headed into a summer of uncertainty for himself and the franchise. New owners will take over on July 1, and there is no telling what direction the team will take.
Nielsen, 32, said there have been “a few calls” between his agent and general manager Garth Snow, but there have been no contract negotiations. “It’s going to be a little bit interesting. It’s a weird feeling, for sure, not knowing if you’re going to be back or not,” he said, adding that it is not totally a bad thing. It might be intriguing to see if other teams have appreciated his play over the years enough to make offers.VoteIslanders 2016-17: Keep 'em or dump 'em?
“I love being here and I would love to be back. We’ll see what happens,” he said.
He echoed the sentiment of fellow potential free agents Kyle Okposo and Matt Martin, who also would prefer to remain Islanders. Martin joked on Tuesday morning that he took heat from fans over the weekend when he had said he “loved” playing for the Islanders. He made sure to use the present tense on Tuesday morning, reaffirming that he wants to stay.
But it might not be in their hands. Futures of those players rest on the budget and the team’s plans. As Nielsen said, “I’m not the guy to ask that question. The ball is on Garth’s side now.”