The New Jersey Devils made a big trade last night–a trade that sent both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Islanders, in exchange for two picks and two prospects. Specifically, the Devils received A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, as well as the Islanders 2021 first round selection and a fourth round conditional pick in 2022 (which becomes a third round selection if the Isles make it to the Stanley Cup finals this season). The Devils are retaining half of both Palmieri and Zajac’s salaries for this season; both were scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
According to Devils’ GM Tom Fitzgerald, New Jersey and Palmieri (who was in his sixth season as a Devil) had been “trying to hash out a deal to bring Kyle back, but at this point .. there were differences [and] because of the amount of interest… the time was appropriate for the organization to listen and see what Kyle’s value was out there as a rental.” Fitzgerald said jokingly that there were 32 teams interested in Palmieri (including Seattle). He then reiterated that, “Kyle and I have a great relationship to the point on Saturday we got together for a couple of hours and just hung out, talked about his future, talked about his past … and I just told him, I had to do what’s best for the organization and make the best deal possible.”
Zajac, who was a 2004 NJD first round pick, was in a different situation. The GM acknowledged that Zajac’s no move clause in his contract was earned and they wanted to keep him, however, Fitzgerald “just felt that, for Travis, if he wanted an opportunity to get back to the playoffs, to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup, [that Zajac should] just let me know… If Travis wanted to continue and not make the playoffs, that was his right to stay. But I know that he is a hungry professional and wants the chance to win the cup like every hockey player wants. This may be the year he does it.” According to Fitzgerald, however, the 35-year-old “will always be a New Jersey Devil.”
When Fitzgerald talked about the incoming first round pick, he spoke of the fact that “it sets us up really well for the future–develop under our development program, grow these players into the players we project them to be…It gives us flexibility to add to a position of need… maybe helps us with teams with expansion issues.”
But Fitzgerald’s mind was still on Palmieri and Zajac when he said, “For these two gentlemen, I hope nothing but the best for both of them…. If these two gentlemen win a Stanley Cup we get the 32nd pick. We want nothing more than that (for them) …I hope its the 32nd pick, I really do.”
Right now, the Devils have the most cap space of any team in the league (as of today, according to CapFriendly, more than 36.5 million dollars). That’s a lot of cap space that can be used to make other deals with cap-strapped teams prior to Monday and after the playoffs. A lot of cap space too to maybe later resign a guy that only chose another team to try to win a Cup.