It’s not often that a professional athlete has the opportunity to play in the same geographical area where he or she was born or grew up. But when you look at the NHL career of Kyle Palmieri, he’s been pretty lucky. He was born in Smithtown on Long Island and grew up in Montvale, New Jersey and now the former Devil is going to remain an Islander for four more years after his new contract extension was announced on Wednesday.
The Islanders acquired Palmieri from the Devils just before the trading deadline this past season and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Semifinals. Islanders President and General Manager Lou Lamoriello has now traded for Palmieri twice as he also acquired the veteran forward when he was the with the Devils and brought him home to New Jersey.
And now Palmieri gets to stay home where he has family and close to home where he grew up.
“It means a lot,” said Palmieri during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Wednesday. “I’m incredibly fortunate to have a situation like this. Being born on Long Island and growing up mostly in (New) Jersey and now spending a lot of time on Long Island, it’s hard to pick one but I think it’s something that not a lot of guys get the opportunity to play in their hometown for any period of time during their career. I’ve had a good chunk of it and I’m really looking forward to the future here.”
Palmieri, a first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2009, was acquired by the Islanders to help fill the void left by the season-ending injury to Captain Anders Lee and he was a big part of the Islanders second straight trip to the NHL’s final four. During the playoffs, Palmieri scored seven goals to go along with two assists for nine points and it was his overtime goal that gave the Islanders a 4-3 win over the Penguins in game one of the opening round.
Once he joined the Islanders at the deadline, it didn’t Palmieri long to see that this was an organization he wanted to be with long term.
“It was pretty quick,” said Palmieri. “Obviously, you want to see how you fit in to a team and kind of the role that you’re given. I think as I went on and got to know the guys and the coaching staff and obviously, I’m pretty familiar with being on Long Island but it was definitely something that came together pretty quickly and I’m excited to spend the next four years here.”
With Jordan Eberle now in Seattle after being selected by the Kraken in the NHL Expansion Draft, Palmieri is expected to play on the Islanders’ top line with Lee and Mat Barzal. Palmieri’s extension was one of four announced by the Islanders on Wednesday with the others being forwards Casey Cizikas and Anthony Beauvillier along with goalie Ilya Sorokin. Free agent Zach Parise confirmed to The Athletic that he will be joining the Islanders and it’s also been reported that Travis Zajac, who came to the Islanders with Palmieri from the Devils, could also be back in the mix.
Aside from Eberle and defenseman Nick Leddy, who was traded to Detroit, the gang is all back together and then some so Palmieri is excited about what lies ahead for the Islanders.
“The goal of our team is no secret,” said Palmieri. “We want to win a Stanley Cup. I think we have a great group of guys here, a world class coaching staff and (front) office. I’m really excited to be here.”
Palmieri indicated that the new deal came together pretty quickly as he wanted to return and the Islanders made it clear that they wanted him back. For Palmieri, staying with the Islanders not only means being on a Stanley Cup contender but it also keeps him at home on Long Island and playing in front of a fan base that is ready to rock the Isles’ new home UBS Arena at Belmont Park.
“It comes down to the fans and how passionate they are and how excited they are to watch this team play,” said Palmieri. “Inside the room being around these guys every day…it’s a special group and I’m just fortunate enough to be able to fit in and have a place here.”
If you look back at the Islanders history at the NHL trading deadline, you can come up with a number of acquisitions that they acquired but couldn’t convince to re-sign and that list includes players like Ryan Smyth and Thomas Vanek. But there’s a different culture around the Islanders these days and Long Island is now a destination that is attractive to players. Palmieri sees that and that’s why he signed a four-year contract to stay with the Islanders. He’s also home sweet home on Long Island where he was born and not too far away from where he grew up in New Jersey.
It’s like picking to hear a song by either Billy Joel or Bruce Springsteen…you can’t go wrong with either choice but right now the winning tune for Kyle Palmieri is Long Island.