Palmieri + Zajac to the Islanders – My Thoughts

If you missed the news from Wednesday, the NYI and NJ Devils got a trade done to send RW Kyle Palmieri and C Travis Zajac to the Islanders in exchange for a combination of young players and draft picks.

THERE WE GO, a bigtime deal leading into the NHL trade deadline and perhaps a signal that other NHL teams will follow suit in an ‘arms race’ scenario during the shortened 2020-21 NHL Season.

Lamoriello makes a deal with his old club

My first thought on this deal was that GM Lou Lamoriello used his relationships from his days with the New Jersey Devils organization to make a deal happen with his new club. Lamoriello took the Devils to the playoffs 21 times including 3 Stanley cup victories. This is a man who clearly knows what he’s doing in the hockey world.

Palmieri and Zajac become UFA’s at the end of the 2020/21 season

In this sense the deal doesn’t really look so bad for New Jersey who are knee deep in a rebuild. The Devils are 13-18-6 on the year and without Palmieri and Zajac up front for them, this will likely be the height of their winning %. The future for New Jersey is still 2-3 years away from fruition so this deal generates a pretty good return for them.

New Jersey retains 50% of the Zajac and Palmieri Contracts

This portion of the deal is critical. Take a look at the contract circumstances of the key players here:

  • Kyle Palmieri: 4.25Mil
  • Travis Zajac: 5.75Mil
  • Anders Lee: 7.00Mil

With a healthy Anders Lee this deal doesn’t happen. The NY Islanders don’t have the cap space to add anyone, they are by far one of the most extended teams in the NHL with a projected cap hit of $87,911,466 in a season which has an $81,500,000 upper limit. They entered the NHL season tip-toeing on the line and have since had to shelter themselves with players like Johnny Boychuk(6.0Mil) on LTIR and Andrew Ladd($4.425Mil) on the Taxi Squad. Anders Lee and his 7.0M AAV contract shifted to LTIR and allow for the addition of Zajac/Palmieri provided that New Jersey retains some aspect of the salary on each player.

Line Combinations

The NYI forward lines have been a mess since Anders Lee went down with a LBI that cost him the remainder of the NHL Season. Since then, the Islanders have rotated a number of players through the LW1 spot including Kieffer Bellows, Anthony Beauvillier Leo Komarov and my PP favorite Matt Martin. Here is how I see the Islanders proceeding with the new players acquired in trade:

Bailey – Barzal – Palmieri

Beauvillier – Nelson – Eberle

Komarov – Pageau – Zajac

Clutterbuck – Cizikas – Martin

Both Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom have had great rookie season for the Islanders and even provided Fantasy relevant performances. Now I see them facing significant challenges breaking into this lineup. While I love the combination of offense and grit these players bring the NHL playoffs are a fickle beast which lend heavily towards a veteran approach. When they do get their chances, look for them to be giving 110% every shift.

Fantasy Impact

Kyle Palimieri (RW) – 45% Owned

Palmieri likely draws in consistently on the NYI L1 and PP1. Though the RW side for the Islanders is crowded, to think that they brought him in to be a depth player behind Eberle and/or Bailey is kind of silly. Palmieri is a notorious 20G scorer and has proven his abilities in both Anaheim and New Jersey. Look for him to make a contribution down the stretch. He is worth an add in all formats which contain an IR spot.

Travis Zajac (C) – 4% Owned

Much more difficult to predict in terms of fantasy Impact Travis Zajac actually has to carve out his own role for the Islanders. Zajac has a career 53.8 FW% but is at 49.9% on the season which doesn’t scream that he will over take anyone from one of the deepest teams in the league down the middle. Add that he currently has only 7G/11A and take your best guess as to how the Islanders prioritize him in their lineup and where he fits on their PP design. For now keep him in the back of your mind as a potential flyer, he isn’t worth a pickup at this time.

This deal is an exciting lead up to what we hope to be an entertaining 2021 NHL Trade deadline. The creativity between the Islanders and the Devils will remain as one of the best deals of the trade deadline season and could shift the balance of power in the East division where they sit tied for 1st with 54pts along side the Washington Capitals.

David Carey – April 8, 2021

Follow me on Twitter @87_Carey and @fantasymarksmen

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