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Analysis: Isles are all-in on deep run with Palmieri, Zajac trade

Wednesday night, the New York Islanders dealt forwards, AJ Greer and Mason Jobst, a 2021 1st round pick and a conditional 2022 4th round pick to the New Jersey Devils for forwards, Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.

Zajac had been on the radar of Islanders General Manager, Lou Lamoriello, since last season when New York nearly brought in Zajac from the Devils and Zach Parise from the Minnesota Wild at the 2020 trade deadline.

This year, Zajac waived his no-trade clause to go to the Islanders.

Palmieri, meanwhile, adds a significant component to New York’s scoring prowess with captain, Anders Lee, out for the rest of the regular season (at least) due to injury.

New Jersey retained 50% of both Palmieri and Zajac’s salary in the transaction.

If the Islanders advance to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, the 4th round pick becomes a 3rd round pick in either 2022 or 2023, with New York having the choice between the two to send to the Devils.

New Jersey General Manager, Tom Fitzgerald, in the meantime, hopes both now former Devils players (Palmieri and Zajac) will go on to win Stanley Cup rings with the Islanders in 2021, and that he’ll receive the 32nd overall pick in this year’s first round in the process.

New York is in “win-now” mode, while New Jersey is looking to sell expendable parts and build around their youth in Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Ty Smith and Mackenzie Blackwood.

Palmieri, 30, had 8-9–17 totals in 34 games for the Devils this season prior to being traded on Wednesday and has 183-172–355 totals in 595 career NHL games for the Anaheim Ducks and Devils since being drafted in the 1st round (26th overall) by Anaheim in 2009, and making his league debut in 2010-11.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound, Smithtown, New York native carries a $2.325 million cap hit for the Islanders and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

He set career-highs in goals, assists and points in 2015-16 with the Devils with 30-27–57 totals in 82 games and had a career-high tying 27 assists the following season in 80 games with New Jersey.

Since reaching the 30-goal plateau, Palmieri has had four consecutive seasons with at least 20 goals (five if you include the 30-goal season) entering 2020-21.

In 38 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Palmieri has 8-7–15 totals, including three points (one goal, two assists) in five games with New Jersey in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Zajac, 35, had 7-11–18 totals in 33 games with the Devils this season prior to being traded to the Islanders and has 202-348–550 totals in 1,024 career NHL games since making his debut in the 2006-07 season.

A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Zajac was drafted by the Devils in the 1st round (20th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

The 6-foot-2, 185-pound center has reached the 20-goal plateau twice in his career, establishing career-highs in goals (25), assists (42) and points (67) in 82 games with the Devils in 2009-10, and had 19 goals in 80 games in 2018-19, including 12 points on the power play.

Zajac carries a $2.875 million cap hit through season’s end for New York and has 11-17–28 totals in 57 career postseason games, including 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 24 games en route to New Jersey’s 2012 Stanley Cup Final appearance.

He most recently had a goal and an assist (two points) in five games in the 2018 First Round with the Devils in their 4-1 series loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Greer, 24, has not played in the NHL since the 2018-19 season with the Colorado Avalanche, in which he had 1-1–2 totals in 15 games.

Drafted in the 2nd round (39th overall) by the Avs in 2015, Greer made his league debut with Colorado in 2016-17, and has 1-5–6 totals in 37 career NHL games (all with the Avalanche).

He was traded to the Islanders on Oct. 11th last fall for Kyle Burroughs and has spent parts of the last five seasons in the American Hockey League (AHL) for San Antonio, Colorado and Bridgeport, where he had 1-1–2 totals in 10 games for the Sound Tigers thus far in 2020-21 at the time of the trade.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound native of Joliette, Québec is a pending-restricted free agent at season’s end and has a $700,000 cap hit.

Jobst, 27, has yet to appear in an NHL game in his professional playing days and was undrafted.

After four seasons at Ohio State (NCAA-Big Ten), he signed a two-year deal with the Islanders on April 2, 2019, and has spent the last two seasons with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL).

He had two assists in six games with Bridgeport this season prior to being traded to New Jersey and 5-8–13 totals in 44 games for the Sound Tigers last season.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound native of Speedway, Indiana is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end and carries a $792,500 cap hit.

Both Greer and Jobst are expected to report to the Binghamton Devils (AHL).

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