Snow building up: Isles sign Frans Nielsen to 4-year deal, avoid free agency

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Frans Nielsen of the New York Islanders finished sixth in the Selke voting last season (even with the New York area boycott over the Chris Botta issue); a considerable distance behind the top 5, but the recognition was still there for one of the NHL's best defensive forwards.

He would have been coveted as a role player at the trade deadline and then again as an unrestricted free agent this summer, which is why re-signing Nielsen was a priority for GM Garth Snow. Via TSN and Bob McKenzie, that's just what he did on Tuesday:

The New York Islanders signed C Frans Nielsen to a four-year contract extension worth a total of $11 million.  Nielsen will be paid $2.0 million in the first year of the contract, followed by $2.5 million, $3.0 million, and $3.5 million. The average annual cap hit is $2.75 million.

Nielsen made $525,000 this season, averaging 17:33 TOI and playing in every situation. He'll have the same cap hit as former Islander and fellow defensive stalwart Sean Bergenheim has with the Florida Panthers, who also received a four-year deal last summer.

Garth Snow usually gets a hill of credit and a mountain of grief for the Islanders' plight, taking shrapnel from criticism aimed at ownership's foibles. But here's what he's done in the last year: Signed John Tavares through 2018 at a $5.5 million cap hit; signed Michael Grabner ($3 million) and Kyle Okposo ($2.8 million) through 2016; signed Matt Moulson through 21014 at a $3.133 million cap hit; and now signed Nielsen through 2016.

He's created a solid core for this team through the next several seasons, along with a projected cap space of just under $30 million next summer. The question is if that lineup stability, young core and available funds can finally land a key free agent —preferably on the blue line — to begin transitioning this franchise back into a contender. And if that fails, then will the Islanders package young assets and picks for a player of that ilk under contract?

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