The Islanders are gearing up to make a run for the Stanley Cup, and they’ve added two offensive weapons to better their chances.
In a blockbuster trade Wednesday night, the Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils in exchange for minor league forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2022.
The Devils agreed to retain 50 percent of both Palmieri’s and Zajac’s salaries. By assigning Kieffer Bellows and Oliver Wahlstrom to the taxi squad, the Islanders still have more than $3 million in long-term injury salary pool relief, per CapFriendly.
If the Islanders make the Stanley Cup Finals, the fourth-round pick would become a third-rounder in 2022 or 2023. The Islanders would reserve the right to decide on which of the third-round picks they transfer, according to The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun.
Since Palmieri and Zajac are coming from a local team, both will be able to join the Islanders — who are currently tied with the Capitals for first in the East Division — for the morning skate Thursday ahead of the matchup that night against the Flyers.
“I’m excited to have them as part of our organization,” Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said following the trade. “I know what they bring on the ice, I also know who they are as people, and how well they’ll fit in the locker room here.”
When Islanders captain Anders Lee went down with a season-ending ACL injury at the end of March, Lamoriello said there would be moves to fill his void on the top line. The third-year Islanders president and GM has delivered, bringing in two veteran forwards with a combined 26 seasons of NHL experience.
Lamoriello has continued the trend of reacquiring his former players from his previous stops as general manager. At last season’s trade deadline, he traded for veteran defenseman Andy Greene, whom he had signed as an undrafted player when he was at the helm with the Devils. Lamoriello also brought former Devils goaltender Cory Schneider to the Islanders in January.
Zajac, who had to waive his no-movement clause in order to sign with the Islanders, is now a part of that long list of players. Lamoriello drafted Zajac 20th overall with the Devils in 2004.
“I have had that in my past,” Lamoriello said of his tendencies. “But the reason that you do it is because you know what the player can bring on the ice, as well as what he can bring off the ice.”
“At this point in my career and where I’m at, I wanted a chance to win, and I just believe this is a team that has all the aspects of a winning hockey team,” Zajac said. “To be able to try and be a part of that and help them in any way, I think it was, for me, it was the right time.”
Palmieri, who was born in Smithtown, L.I., and grew up in New Jersey, has scored more than 20 goals in each of the last five seasons with the Devils. The 30-year-old winger is in the final season of a five-year deal and is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
In 1,024 NHL games, all with the Devils, Zajac has 550 points (202 goals and 348 assists). This season, the 35-year-old center has seven goals and 11 assists. Zajac is also in the final season of the eight-year deal he signed with the Devils, which will make him an unrestricted free agent this summer.
With the NHL’s trade deadline of Monday steadily approaching, Lamoriello said he is always on the lookout to make the Islanders better. He said he will continue to be careful and take into consideration not only the talent, but the type of people he looks into.
After acquiring Zajac and Palmieri, Lamoriello appears to be satisfied with where the Islanders stand.
“We’re pretty much content with what we have and who we have right now,” he said. “In fact, extremely comfortable.”