Kyle Palmieri’s Absence Suggests an Imminent Trade… but to Who?by Carter LaCorte April 5, 2021 0 comments
The New Jersey Devils lost 5-4 to the Washington Capitals on Easter Sunday, but that was far from the most important story of the day. Top winger Kyle Palmieri was absent and that is suspicious, considering he will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. Worried about an injury? Think again.
Bartlett Hockey (Palmieri’s agency), had this to say:
Can confirm that Kyle Palmieri is being held out of Devils lineup today in anticipation of a trade in the coming days or week(s).
— Bartlett Hockey (@BartlettHockey) April 4, 2021
This comes about a week before the April 12 NHL Trade Deadline, where Palmieri feels like a lock to be moved because of his expiring contract. His absence from the game versus Washington was a dead giveaway that he is on the market. Many teams are expected to be involved, so let’s look at teams that Palmieri could play his next game for.
A quick catch-up for those uninformed, Palmieri is a legitimate top-six winger. He started off the 2020-21 season slow but has regained his scoring touch as of late, with four goals in his past eight games. He has raised his season total to eight. Additionally, that is with an uncharacteristically low 9.5 percent shooting rate. In his first five seasons in New Jersey (starting in 2015-16), Palmieri scored at least 24 goals each year, maxing out at 30. He netted 25 in 65 games during last year’s shortened season.
New York Islanders
The Islanders have a big need for wing help, after Anders Lee‘s season ending ACL surgery. Veteran Leo Komarov has been skating on the top line alongside Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle, and while he can be a fine defensive player, Komarov has scored just four goals in 69 games since the start of 2019-20. None in 21 not-so-nice games this year.
The one minor hiccup is that Palmieri is primarily a right winger, like Eberle, and the Islanders need a left winger. However, it shouldn’t be much of a hassle to move one to their off-wing.
The Islanders have a first- and second-round pick in this year’s draft, and two second round picks next year. They have the assets to acquire Palmieri, particularly since it does not look like he will require a first round pick with an expected buyer’s market. Lee is currently on LTIR, meaning the Islanders can afford Palmieri’s $4.65 million cap hit.
One interesting Palmieri connection to New York is Lou Lamoriello, New York’s general manager, who was formerly the GM and President of the Devils. Lamoriello was President on June 27th of 2015, when Palmieri was acquired from Anaheim, although he left about a month later for Toronto. Still, Lamoriello is familiar with the player and the Devils and Islanders play often.
The Bruins are currently sitting in fourth place in the East Division, which is still a playoff spot but not amazing. They have had a lot of secondary scoring issues, though their top line of Marchand, Bergeron and Pastrnak have dominated.
For longtime second line center David Krejci, his wingers (most notably Jake Debrusk) have struggled. Boston tried to fix that on Saturday by moving Craig Smith up to the top line, and moving down Pastrnak to the second line. They won that game 7-5, but the “perfection line” should be kept together, meaning a winger needs to be acquired.
Palmieri has shown that he can score, and his expiring contract does not make him an issue for the team’s future cap space. Speaking of which, the Bruins have very little so New Jersey may have to retain some money.
Admittedly, this one is a bit out there, as up until last week everyone anticipated the Predators selling at the deadline. However, the Preds have won seven of their past eight, and nine of their last 11 games. They sit at 41 points; two above the Blackhawks for the Central Division’s final playoff spot. What if now instead of dangling Mattias Ekholm or Filip Forsberg, GM David Poile decides to go big and get scoring help?
When fully healthy, Nashville does not necessarily need a scorer, but if they want to make the playoffs and make noise when they get there, any help is good and they will have the cap space. If he was acquired today, Palmieri would slot on the second line, to the right of Mikael Granlund, another potential trade chip. But, Forsberg and Matt Duchene are currently injured. Still, Palmieri would be a second-liner even on a fully healthy Predators team.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Maple Leafs are looking for a winger to play on their second line as well, alongside John Tavares and William Nylander. Currently, Alex Galchenyuk is stationed there. Palmieri would satisfy that requirement, and some salary retention could make it work on the money side. There is a small off-wing issue like with the Islanders, but that should not hold up trade conversations.
What could hold them up, however, is a no-trade clause. Palmieri has an eight-team no-trade clause, and The Athletic’s James Mirtle wrote recently that he believes the Leafs are on that list. That would effectively end all hopes of Palmieri going to Toronto if the rumor is true. If it is not, then pencil in the Toronto as a legitimate contender for Palmieri’s services.
The Penguins are the third East Division team on the list, and they are the most unlikely of the trio. Once again, injuries have devastated their lineup. Their second line consists of Jason Zucker, Jared McCann and Evan Rodrigues. Only Zucker belongs there, as the other two are replacing the injured Evgeni Malkin and Kasperi Kapanen.
If Palmieri was brought in the mix, then he can go on the second line right wing. That could potentially move Kapanen down to the fourth line, but he started the season there. The Penguins do not have great depth, and acquiring Palmieri would definitely strengthen that.
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s off-the-ice situation does not support a big trade like this. They have little cap space, and are without their first round pick this year after sending it to Minnesota last year for Zucker. Their 2020 third was also sent away for rental Patrick Marleau last year, and they have one of the worst farm systems in the league. New brass Ron Hextall and Brian Burke will want to fix that. So, making a big move and trading significant assets seems to be out of the picture.