Aggressive Islanders grab Devils' Palmieri, Zajac
The New York Islanders didn't look too far to add to their playoff depth up front, acquiring forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.
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The Islanders acquired Palmieri, 30, and veteran center Travis Zajac, 35, from New Jersey for depth forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, the Islanders' first-round pick in the 2021 NHL draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
The Devils retained 50% of the salaries for both players in order to make the trade work under the $81.5 million salary cap. Palmieri's cap hit of $4.65 million dropped to $2.325 million; Zajac's $5.75 million cap hit dropped to $2.875 million. Both players are unrestricted free agents after the season.
Palmieri, who had received interest from other teams, including the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, heading into the deadline, has eight goals and nine assists in 34 games this season. But it's his tenacity as a forward and his offensive pedigree that had teams lining up for him after the Devils made it clear they intended to trade him: Palmieri had scored 132 goals from 2015 to 2020 with the Devils.
"It's been a bit of a crazy week, starting with the scratch Sunday," said Palmieri, who did not play this week for New Jersey while talks were occurring. "When I heard the Islanders were an option, I couldn't have been more excited. Little bit of anxiety waiting for that call, but difficult to contain my excitement."
The Islanders had sought a veteran winger at the deadline, after losing captain Anders Lee for the season with a right knee injury.
Zajac, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Islanders, is a versatile center who played on New Jersey's power play and on their penalty kill. He has 18 points in 33 games this season. Zajac had been a Devil since 2006-07, playing all 1,024 of his NHL games with the franchise. He was drafted 20th overall in 2004 by current Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, who spent over two decades at the helm in New Jersey.
"I think at this point I wanted a chance to win," Zajac said. "I believe this is the team that has all the aspects of a winner. I want to help them in any way possible. For me it was the right time. I was fortunate to have such a great career in New Jersey, tons of great people."
The condition -- the fourth-round selection in the deal -- relates to the length of the Islanders' postseason run. If New York makes the Stanley Cup Final, the pick will move to the third round in either 2022 or 2023. At that point, the Islanders will have the option to decide which one they'd like to transfer.
The Devils now have nine picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. And it's the second consecutive season they found a trading partner with the Islanders. Before the league paused last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Islanders acquired former Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene for a prospect and a draft pick. The Islanders went on to advance to the Eastern Conference finals after play resumed in the Toronto bubble.
"I feel my relationship with Lou is extremely strong. There's a trust factor between the both of us, and that's important to Lou and it's very important to me," Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. "Last year, we were dealing with the same thing ... there are players that Lou values on our team, for obvious reasons.
"For me, players want to play for Lou, especially his ex-players, and I think that's important through all this and Travis was no different. He knows what the environment's going to be, he knows what the expectations will be."