2016 NHL Free Agency: Frans Nielsen, is the Dane a great target?
Frans Nielsen still hasn't signed with the Islanders. If he decides to test the market, is he a good fit for the Red Wings?
The Red Wings have not been linked to New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen, but the Dane possesses a mix of offensive and defensive ability that makes him a target for many teams throughout the NHL. Is he a good fit for Detroit? Let's take a look.
Height/Weight: 6'1" / 188 Lbs
Born: April 24, 1984 (Age 32)
Hometown: Herning, Denmark
What does Nielsen have to offer?
Frans Nielsen is a shifty, intelligent, play-making center who contributes at both ends of the ice. He has a quick stick and strong defensive positioning, often breaking up plays and making quick outlet passes to start a rush. He can also finish the rush, whether with a quick wrist shot or beating defenders one-on-one. Nielsen is skilled at finding the quiet areas in defensive coverage, leading to wide-open looks at the net.
He, along with fellow UFA Kyle Okposo, is an alternate captain for New York. He has twice taken team-friendly contracts to help the Islanders build a home-grown core, so he's likely looking for his payday. He would bring leadership and a team-first attitude. Nielsen has solid possession stats, with a 5v5 CF% of 51.19 last season.
One factor that makes Nielsen more valuable than he might otherwise be is his performance in the shootout. We saw last season how important every point is in the standings. His go-to move is surprisingly effective, considering that every goalie in the league has to know it's coming by now. It's nothing spectacular, but his forehand fake, backhand roof combination makes even top goalies look foolish. He mixes it up, sometimes going forehand wrist shot, keeping goalies from going all in on stopping his bread-and-butter move. You'll see it a few times in his highlight video:
Should the Wings target Frans Nielsen?
Frans Nielsen is a terrific third line center, who can play as a second liner if needed. The problem with Nielsen for the Wings is that the team really needs a top-line center, and Nielsen isn't that. A look at his HERO chart linked above makes that case. As with every potential free agent, the chances of Nielsen getting overpaid are very real.
The whole point could be moot anyway, if the Islanders re-sign him, and I think they will. They will likely lose Kyle Okposo, and the team doesn't want to lose both. New York reportedly offered $5.5 million AAV, but Nielsen has not yet signed. Maybe he wants to see what offers he gets on July 1, but I bet he will be back with New York for opening night this coming season.
Frans Nielsen is an underrated playmaker who would be an improvement for the Red Wings at center. But even with Nielsen, the team would still have the same problem it does now, they don't have a real top line center.