Islanders sign Nelson and Bernier, trade Grabner to Leafs


Brock Nelson celebrates his game-winner with Michael Grabner in the Islanders' 4-3 win over the Predators AP Photo by Mark Humphrey/Getty Images

Brock Nelson celebrates his game-winner with Michael Grabner in the Islanders’ 4-3 win over the Predators
AP Photo by Mark Humphrey/Getty Images

It’s been a busy 24 hours for the Islanders. A day before training camp opened, they re-signed center Brock Nelson to a three-year deal worth $7.5 million. Nelson will earn $1.5 million in ’15-16, $2.5 million in ’16-17 and $3.5 million in ’17-18. With him back in the fold, we’ll see if he can build upon a 20-goal, 22 assist career season.

That wasn’t the only move. With a glut at forward, they dealt Michael Grabner to the Maple Leafs for five players. They got back Taylor Beck, Carter Verhaeghe, Matt Finn, Tom Nilsson and Christopher Gibson.

The 24-year old Beck had eight goals and eight assists with the Predators last season. The Leafs acquired him on July 12 for Jamie Devane. Beck is on a one-year deal worth $875,000. Gibson is a 22-year old goalie prospect who won 24 games and posted a 2.42 goals-against average with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL. Finn is a 21-year old defenseman who split time in the AHL and ECHL. Nilsson is also a defenseman who came over from Frolunda last year and tallied five points (1-4-5) for the Marlies. Verhaeghe is a former Leafs 2013 third round pick who put up 33 goals and 82 points with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. He’s only 20 and would seem to have the most upside.

In five seasons with the Islanders, Grabner totaled 90 goals and 54 assists for 144 points in 297 games. Most of the scoring came in his first two years with Grabner tallying 34 goals in ’10-11 and 20 in ’11-12. Eventually, he fell into a checking role under coach Jack Capuano. Sports hernia surgery prevented him from playing the first two months last season. He only got into 34 games finishing with eight goals and five helpers. Grabner had one assist in two postseason contests against the Capitals.

The 27-year old forward was the odd man out with a cap hit of $3 million. He’s owed $5 million in his final year and will turn unrestricted next summer. The rebuilding Leafs were willing to take a chance on him.  Grabner possesses great speed and is a good defensive forward who is an asset on the penalty kill with his game breaking speed generating shorthanded chances. If he finished with any consistency, he could get back to being a 25-30 goalscorer. It won’t be in Brooklyn.

After dealing away Grabner, the Isles officially signed ex-Devil Steve Bernier to a one-year $750,000 contract. The 30-year old is coming off a good season in which he tallied 16 goals and 16 assists. He should be a good fit under Capuano, who likes energy.

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About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included two stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil games. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has scored Berkeley Carroll basketball games since 2006 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. From players, coaches to administrators, it's a first class program. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree.
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