The New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils are seemingly becoming trading partners at the NHL deadline.
For the second straight year, the New York City metropolitan-area rivals worked out a deal for the young and developing Devils to send an experienced player to the Islanders for their playoff push for a Stanley Cup.
Last year, it was veteran defenceman Andy Greene. On Wednesday, the Devils shipped right wing Kyle Palmieri and two-way centre Travis Zajac to the Island for New York’s first-round pick this year, a conditional fourth-round choice next year and forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst.
The move before Monday’s trade deadline is not surprising. Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello led the Devils to three Cups and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald was at Providence when Lamoriello was the athletic director.
“I feel my relationship with Lou is extremely strong, there’s a trust factor between the both of us and that’s important to Lou and it’s very important to me,” Fitzgerald said. “Last year we were dealing with same thing … there are players that Lou values on our team, for obvious reasons. For me, players want to play for Lou, especially his ex-players and I think that’s important through all this and Travis was no different. He knows what the environment’s going to be, he knows what the expectations will be.”
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New Jersey will pay half of Zajac and Palmieri’s salaries.
The Islanders are tied with Washington atop the East Division, with third-place Pittsburgh four poiints back. New York is 9-4-0 since losing captain Anders Lee to a torn ACL in a game against New Jersey on March 11.
Palmieri, who has not played since last weekend and will be a free agent after this season, gives the Islanders a proven goal scorer to help with Anders Lee out for the season with a knee injury. The 30-year-old Long Island native has scored at least 24 goals in each of his first five seasons with the Devils. He got off to a slow start this year and has eight in 34 games.
Zajac, who has spent his whole career with the Devils, recently playing in his 1000th regular-season game. The 35-year-old can do everything, from winning faceoff, scoring and killing penalties.
“I think at this point I wanted a chance to win,” Zajac said. “I believe this is the team that has all the aspects of a winner. I want to help them in any way possible. For me it was the right time. I was fortunate to have such a great career in New Jersey, tons of great people.”
Zajac had a no-trade contract that had to be waived, Fitzgerald said.
Greer is currently playing with Bridgeport of the AHL, where he has one goal and one assist in 10 games. In 37 career NHL contests, the 24-year-old left wing has one goal and five assists.
New Jersey now has nine picks in the 2021 NHL draft. The club has its own picks in rounds one, three, four and six; the Islanders first and second rounders; Buffalo’s fifth-round pick and Arizona’s third and seventh-round selections.