It’s officially official: the trading season has arrived.
With less than a week to go to the NHL trade deadline, a big trade in the Eastern Division took place Wednesday night as tri-state clubs the Devils and Islanders traded players and picks. The New York team caught forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac while New Jersey got two minor leagues and a few draft picks – one being a first round.
It’s a good deal for both clubs as the Devils are stockpiling the closets and the Isles have two guys who could help the Stanley Cup contenders up front.
Here’s how the teams did it:
The Islanders received from New Jersey:
Kyle Palmieri (F) and Travis Zajac (F)
Devils received from New York:
AJ Greer (F), Mason Jobst (F), 2021 first round pick, 2022 fourth round conditional pick
New Jersey will keep 50% of Zajac and Palmieri’s salaries.
Devils grade: B +
Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald knows how to make moves. Last year, on the deadline (when he was acting), he made three deals, and that was after he sent Blake Coleman to the Lightning and Andy Greene to those same islands. This year he traded two guys who will be unrestricted free agents this summer, which they could have lost for nothing, for something.
NHL TRADE TRACKER 2021: List of transactions concluded before the deadline
With a young core including Jack Hughes, Ty Smith and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, Fitzgerald came out and added at least one other potential young star with that first-round pick. New Jersey now has nine picks in the 2021 Draft, including two in the first round. Greer is a 2015 second-round pick and Jobst was not drafted; both had played in the AHL with Bridgeport.
“It sets us up really well for the future,” Fitzgerald told Zoom after the deal. “We think we have three very good prospects that can come in and grow as part of our development program and make these players the players we project them to be.”
While the 2021 draft isn’t considered as deep as 2020, the Devils could get a quality guy in the latter part of the first round, where Fitzgerald expects the pick to fall.
“I hope it’s the 32nd pick, I really do. I hope these two gentlemen can win a Cup and we get the 32nd pick. I wouldn’t like anything more,” he said. .
Islanders Note: A-
The Islanders lost captain Anders Lee, who was tied with Brock Nelson for the team’s goal lead (12), to a knee injury that ended the season in March. According to Brian Compton of NHL.comGM Lou Lamoriello noted that the way the team responded after Lee’s fall (8-4-0), he needed to make a move to help strengthen the roster.
“I know what they bring to the ice,” Lamoriello said of his latest acquisitions. “I also know what kind of people they are and what they bring to the locker room. Chemistry is extremely important to me.”
Lamoriello particularly knows Zajac whom he drafted with the 20th overall pick in 2004 for the Devils. The two-way center has spent his entire career in Garden State, amassing 550 points in 1,024 games. He also has 28 points in 57 playoff games, including 14 points in the second round of the 2012 Devils Stanley Cup.
He will likely be one of the last six at Barry Trotz’s club, but what he brings as a grizzled veteran – and this long playoff streak – is intangible for the team. It should be noted that Zajac waived his no-trade clause to travel to the island and given that it is a short drive (traffic permitting) from NJ to Uniondale, that was probably a big reason.
“I am extremely excited for this opportunity,” said Zajac. “AT [this] point in my career and where I am at, I want to have a chance to win. I just believe it’s a team that has all the aspects of a winning hockey team and being able to try to be a part of it and help them in any way they can … I think that was fair, for me it was the right time. “
As for Palmieri, he was the blue-chip in this matter. Before the move, he was considered one of the best players who should be moved. (TSN’s Trade Bait table had him at No.2.) The 30-year-old winger has only scored 17 points this season (in 34 games), but he still has scored over 20 goals over the course of each of the previous five seasons. In 595 career games between the Ducks and the Devils, he has totaled 183 goals and 172 assists. A change of scenery and playing with Mat Barzal could trigger his offensive.
“The ability to be part of a team that has the opportunity to do something special is something every player wants,” Palmieri told reporters. “That’s all you can ask for. I can’t wait to take this opportunity.”
As well as joining a team that could have a long run in the playoffs, the two new Islanders will also be greeted – at a social distance – by old friends and teammates Greene and Cory Schneider (taxi team).