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Analyzing the Islanders' trade for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac

April 8, 2021, 4:53 PM ET [529 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The New York Islanders made a major trade last night, acquiring forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils, in exchange for a 2021 first-round pick, a conditional 2022 fourth-round pick, and forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst.

I think this trade is a win for the Islanders. I wasn’t necessarily on board with giving up a first-round pick for just Palmieri but I think the addition of Zajac makes it worthwhile. It’s likely to be a late first-round pick anyways and it’s coming in a draft class that isn’t as deep as those we’ve seen over the last few years. The other trade pieces were minimal as well, with neither Greer or Jobst likely to factor into New York’s long-term plans and the fourth-round pick only being upgraded if the Islanders reach the Cup finals.

Palmieri can factor in as a top-six winger, which fills the gap that Anders Lee’s injury has left. While his production has been down this year, he’s typically good for a pace of 25-30 goals and 55 points per 82 games.

Zajac, on the other hand, is 35 years old but can still produce at a rate of around 30-40 points per 82 games. It’ll be interesting to see how he fits in the lineup, given that Zajac is a natural center. He’s great at the dot, with a career faceoff percentage of 53.7 per cent, but the Islanders already have four centers and none of them are a clear option to shift to the wing.

It’ll also be interesting to see if both these forwards are pure rentals or if there’s an intention to extend either of them. I think it could be pretty challenging to fit Palmieri into next year’s payroll but perhaps Zajac could be re-signed.

Either way, this is a move that certainly improves New York’s playoff chances. They were lacking depth up front and while they may still be missing a true high-end winger or two, their forward group is much more well-rounded after the deal.

From New Jersey’s perspective: I will say that for as much hate as I’m seeing on this deal towards the Devils, I think it’s important to factor in the market right now. Not many teams are willing to buy, which makes it difficult to get good value for a rental player. On top of that, Palmieri’s production has been down and he’s now 30 years old. Considering the deal was completed five days out from the trade deadline, I’m sure this was the best offer the Devils were going to get.

Overall, this was a good deal for the Islanders to improve their depth up front in preparation for another deep playoff run.

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