Next offseason, Brock Nelson may be an unrestricted free agent for the first time.
For now, the Islanders avoided arbitration with Nelson, 26, agreeing to a one-year, $4.25-million deal with the restricted free agent center.
Nelson was the final RFA Islanders president and general manager Lou Lamoriello had to re-sign. Nelson, coming off a three-year, $7.5-million deal, was extended a $3.5-million qualifying offer but instead filed for arbitration, the lone Islander to do so and the sides had an Aug. 3 hearing scheduled.
Nelson, selected 30th overall in 2010, has been a sturdy performer in his five seasons with the Islanders, compiling 19 goals and 16 assists in 82 games last season and only missing two games over the past four seasons.
In all, Nelson, from Warroad, Minnesota, has 99 goals and 89 assists in 398 NHL regular-season games.
But exactly where the left-shooting Nelson fits in with Stanley Cup-winning coach Barry Trotz taking over for Doug Weight certainly seems an open question.
Nelson may have a chance to compete for a top-six spot with John Tavares departing for the -Maple Leafs via free agency leaving Nelson, Calder Trophy-winning Mathew Barzal and fourth-line stalwart Casey Cizikas as the returning centers.
Or, Nelson may be pushed to retain his spot as a third-line center with Lamoriello bringing in UFA centers Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula with either of those veterans forcing Nelson to be slid over to wing.
Another possibility is that Nelson becomes trade bait as he heads toward unrestricted free agency.
The salary cap for 2018-19 has been set at $79.5 million and Nelson’s signing leaves the Islanders with approximately $10.6 million in cap space, per CapFriendly.com.
The last player to go through with a scheduled arbitration hearing with the Islanders remains Trent Hunter in 2007.