When the New York Islanders signed free agent Peter Regin away from the Ottawa Senators, you knew fellow Dane and longtime friend Frans Nielsen would be happy. The odds of two close childhood friends from Herning, Denmark, ending up not only in the NHL -- but on the same team -- are quite long.
So yes, Nielsen is happy -- and apparently quite optimistic about what the Isles have added for a modest $750,000.
This is an older story from the flurry of free agency signings earlier this month, but the quote from Nielsen underlines what the Isles' Dane hopes to see from his countryman. From the sports section of Danish site politken.dk [hot Google Translate action here]:
"I don’t think they have any idea how talented he really is, and just how good a player we got for that kind of money. He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever played with, and he’s gonna make a difference for our team. If he stays healthy for the whole season, I think he’ll be one of our best players, a star player on our team."
In the article, Regin is quoted discussing how he long had the Isles in his sights, so the decision when free agency opened was a quick one that he made while in a taxi cab on the way back from the golf course.
Nielsen is quoted saying he hopes maybe they'll even get to play on the same line, while Regin calls being teammates in the NHL a dream come true.
None of this optimism is a surprise, given their relationship -- hey, for the first time Nielsen can speak a little Danish in the locker room! But understandable hyperbole aside, the questions will be: 1) Are Regin's injuries behind him, and 2) Is Regin's talent truly worthy of that kind of praise, or is this a case where Nielsen's eyes are colored by their friendship?
If it works out, it's gold for the Islanders. If not, it was still worth a try: A no-brainer, low-cost play for a free agent who wants to be on the team, where one of their top players believes he can be a fit.