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Islanders have some big 2025 free agent decisions to make this offseason – The Hockey Writers – New York Islanders

The offseason will be an interesting time for the New York Islanders. They have a lot of questions that need to be answered because of a flawed schedule. They barely made the playoffs and have a low ceiling with an aging roster and a team that is mediocre in the Eastern Conference. This is a team that needs elite talent, especially when it comes to scoring, both in the top six and down the stretch.

Related: How do the Maple Leafs, Islanders and Lightning resolve roster issues?

A subplot for the offseason isn’t this, but the 2025 offseason. This means the Islanders have a lot of integral players on their roster who will be playing next season on expiring contracts (it’s also starting to become a stacked free agency class for the NHL as a whole, but that’s a topic for another time). The Islanders have Brock Nelson, Kyle Palmieri, Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov all headed for free agency and this is the offseason to address that.

These four skaters have been crucial to the Islanders’ success over the past few seasons and the team must figure out what path to take with each of them. They can re-sign them to a short- or long-term deal, trade them now while their value is at their highest, or let them leave in free agency. The last option is a last resort and the one that no one wants to see, but which may be necessary, while the other three are the ideal options for a team that wants to remain competitive.

Noah Dobson: Extend the long run

Noah Dobson signed a short-term “bridge deal” in the 2022 offseason, when the Islanders locked him up for three seasons. After two seasons, he has emerged as the team’s best defender and one of the best two-way defenders in the league. Now is the time to sign him to a long-term contract. The Islanders can wait until the 2025 season, but his value will only increase from here.

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He proved that the 2022/23 season, in which he scored thirteen goals and provided 36 assists, was no fluke. He scored 10 goals and 60 assists this season, but more importantly, he also stepped up on the defensive end of the ice with 4.5 defensive point shares and 180 blocked shots, all with a team-leading 24:31 of ice time. As the rest of the Islanders defensive unit ages and struggles on the offensive side of the ice, Dobson has been the bright spot and the future of the unit.

The problem the Islanders will have with the deal they give Dobson is that it complicates everything else they do. His contract will likely be around $8 million per season and with the team already having minimal room to maneuver capably, this deal won’t help matters. So it’s an issue the Islanders should raise with caution, knowing they’re locking up a defenseman who will only get better.

Brock Nelson: Renew or act now

The Islanders are at a crossroads with Nelson, as a trade may be the best move to help them reboot their roster. They can move him for at least two plays this season and by next season the team will be younger and have a new look. However, Nelson is the type of player they want to keep as one of the faces of the franchise. He has become a cornerstone of the team and ideally signs a long-term deal to retire as an Islander.

Brock Nelson New York Islanders
Brock Nelson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

At Nelson, as much as he wants to stay, he doesn’t want to take a pay cut to do so. He is still playing at a high level and his contract should reflect that. The Islanders could meet halfway on a three- or four-year deal that would keep the 32-year-old center on the team until his late 30s, but if there’s one thing the team has learned in recent seasons, he’s capable of aging gracefully become.

It will make this offseason especially interesting. A trade is a reasonable option and the ideal time to get one done would be now, when its value is at its highest and the clock is ticking to get one done. Delaying this increases the pressure on a trade deadline, and the same goes for a contract extension, as the team has already waited days before losing Nelson to free agency without getting anything in return.

Kyle Palmieri: Trade

Palmieri has become a key part of the offense in recent seasons with 63 goals and 61 assists since being acquired at the 2021 Trade Deadline. It makes him a player the Islanders would like to avoid as he plays next season and in the will remain a valuable scorer for seasons to come if they choose to re-sign him. That said, he would get a good return in a trade and is the ideal player to move if he wants to retool the roster.

Palmieri is near the end of his career, but could still provide a valuable return this offseason, potentially being a top prospect. Teams that see themselves one scorer away from contention will pounce on him and the Islanders should keep that in mind. Trading him doesn’t mean the Islanders won’t buy this season, but it will help them enter the new season with a team that isn’t old and the same as the past few seasons.

Alexander Romanov: Short term extension

With the Islanders down their core payroll and a handful of complementary pieces, Romanov could be the odd man out in the 2025 offseason. If they can’t afford him, they could part ways instead, either via a trade or free agency. He’s a restricted free agent (RFA), which gives them leverage, but his contract value could force their hand.

It would be a shame if they did that, as Romanov was a huge part of their defense. He led the team with 4.8 defensive point shares this season and is the hard-hitting, shot-blocking, fast-skating defenseman this team needed. The Islanders took advantage of the three-team trade in the 2022 offseason when they acquired Romanov for the 13th pick, but now they must decide whether he is an integral part of the roster or not. As a result, they may want to give him a short-term extension that pays him what he’s worth.

Other moves the Islanders should consider in the 2025 class

The Islanders will be inclined to keep some of their best players from hitting free agency next offseason, but it’s easy for them to look ahead to what could be a big free agency class in the NHL. If they stay quiet this season and let a handful of contracts come off the books, they have room to make a splash with some notable free agents available.

Some of the skaters expected to become free agents include Leon Draisaitl, Mitch Marner, Jaccob Slavin and Victor Hedman. Sure, some of these skaters are older and it could backfire if they get a long-term deal, but adding one of them to the roster gives the Islanders a core around which they can build a contender .

What should the Islanders do this offseason with their notable 2025 free agents? Let us know in the comments below!