Puck Drop: Devils Trade Palmieri, Zajac to the Islanders

Welcome to trading season, everyone! The NHL trading deadline is coming up this Monday, and while the upcoming Seattle expansion draft and bizarre playoff format mean we likely won’t see close to the 30-plus trades that happened last season, now is the time when contenders will reinforce their rosters for one final push to the playoffs. The Islanders and Devils unofficially opened Deadline Season on Wednesday, as the 7th-place Devils sent forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to Long Island in exchange for forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 fourth-round pick.


In Palmieri, the Islanders are getting a reliable who knows how to put the puck in the net. Since he arrived in New Jersey in 2015, Palmieri has averaged 0.35 G/GP and 0.67 P/GP over roughly 400 games. Over an 82 game season, that rate is good for a solid 29G/26A/55P. Palmieri’s scoring has fallen off a cliff this year (just 8/9/17 in 34GP), but it’s hard to imagine that this isn’t just a slump that a change of scenery/more talented linemates will help him break. Assuming he can return to form, Palmieri will slot in well for Islanders, who have been looking to fill captain Anders Lee’s spot in their top six since the team announced that Lee would have season-ending ACL surgery on March 17. Travis Zajac isn’t exactly much to write home about, as he’ll serve as a bottom-six depth forward/veteran presence for an Islanders team looking to make another deep run to the playoffs. Both Palmieri and Zajac are UFAs this offseason, meaning the Islanders found a solid stopgap while Lee is out that won’t make their expansion draft or cap situation any worse than they already are.

On the Devils’ side, this feels like a kind of deal where they felt the need to do something and just got what they could. Jobst is a 27-year-old who has 15 points in 51 career AHL games and will be a free agent this summer. Greer, 24, was a second-round pick by the Avalanche in 2015 but posted just six points and 47 PIM in 37 NHL games from 2016-19 and 129 points in 209 career AHL games along with 270 penalty minutes. Draft picks (especially first-rounders) always look good on paper, but the details are not kind to New Jersey. With the Islanders all but guaranteed a playoff spot this year, their pick will likely be no higher than 20th in a weak draft class, so the Devils probably won’t end up with any high-end talent. Mid- to late-round picks are always a shot in the dark, so while New Jersey could hit it big, nothing is guaranteed.


In the end, the Islanders bolstered what is already a strong lineup in preparation for a playoff push without giving up much, while the Devils acquired assets for players who likely wouldn’t have played in Newark next year anyway. This trade probably won’t be remembered as a home run for either side, but it is a win-win nonetheless.


Email Matthew at mpf63@cornell.edu with any feedback!