Aggressive Islanders grab Devils’ Palmieri, Zajac

The New York Islanders acquired New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri on Wednesday night, landing one of the most coveted forwards ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

The Islanders acquired Palmieri, 30, and veteran center Travis Zajac, 35, from New Jersey for depth forwards A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst, the Islanders’ first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

The Devils retained 50% of the salaries for both players in order to make the trade work under the $81.5 million salary cap. Palmieri’s cap hit of $4.65 million dropped to $2.325 million; Zajac’s $5.75 million cap hit dropped to $2.875 million. Both players are unrestricted free agents after the season.

Palmieri, who had received interest from teams like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs heading into the deadline, has eight goals and nine assists in 34 games this season. But it’s his tenacity as a forward and his offensive pedigree that had teams lining up for him after the Devils made it clear they intended to trade him: Palmieri had scored 132 goals from 2015 to 2020 with the Devils.

The Islanders had sought a veteran winger at the deadline, after losing captain Anders Lee for the season with a right knee injury.

Zajac, who waived his no-trade clause to join the Islanders, is a versatile center who played on New Jersey’s power play and on their penalty kill. He has 18 points in 33 games this season. Zajac had been a Devil since 2006-07, playing all 1,024 of his NHL games with the franchise. He was drafted 20th overall in 2004 by current Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, who spent over two decades at the helm in New Jersey.

The condition — the fourth-round selection in the deal — relates to the length of the Islanders’ postseason run. If New York makes the Stanley Cup Final, the pick will move to the third round in either 2022 or 2023. At that point, the Islanders will have the option to decide which one they’d like to transfer.

The Devils now have nine picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. And it’s the second consecutive season they found a trading partner with the Islanders. Before the league paused amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Islanders acquired former Devils defenseman and captain Andy Greene for a prospect and a draft pick. The Islanders went on to advance to the Eastern Conference Final, when play resumed in the Toronto bubble.

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