New York Islanders: Production is needed from new players

Kyle Palmieri, islanders

The New York Islanders clinched a playoff spot with their dominant win over the New York Rangers on Saturday. Off of the hangover, the Islanders blew a 2 goal lead to the worst team in the league. I will not blame individual players, but something has to be done about Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Both of these newly acquired players are not living up to their playing abilities at all. Travis Zajac has become a 13th forward, as he lost his starting spot to Leo Komarov. While Kyle Palmieri is on a total dry streak and looks totally out of place most of the game. What is the solution to finally get these players rolling before the playoffs come along.

First Line Time For Palmieri

I still don’t understand how Leo Komarov/Travis Zajac,/Josh Bailey all got first-line minutes before Kyle Palmieri. Head coach Barry Trotz loves running the first line with a true power forward and 2 elusive playmakers. Kyle Palmieri is literally the definition of a power forward, so it makes no sense why the Islanders won’t at least try the combination. Mat Barzal’s play-making abilities, mixed with Jordan Eberle’s good Hockey sense, could definitely catapult Palmieri’s production. Islander fans saw Anthony Beauvillier revive his season when Trotz brought back the second line from last year’s playoffs. I don’t see why Palmieri being on the first line won’t do the same.

What About Zajac?

Travis Zajac was brought to the Island just in case another forward went down. JG Pageau took last night’s game off due to injury, and Zajac was brought in to clean up the third line. Zajac played as bad as Ross Johnston does. If Zajac played at least decent last night, I bet he would’ve taken Komarov’s spot, who took 2 penalties. Zajac high-sticked a Sabres’ player when the net was empty, on purpose. Never won a single 1v1 battle. It totally stunted the momentum of the third line. To sum it up, Zajac can either pick it up when he gets another chance, or he can find his way into free agency quickly.

The Islanders have to find way to get Kyle Palmieri going

When the Islanders made their major deadline move for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac a few weeks back, g.m. Lou Lamoriello acknowledged chemistry being one of the crucial factors that got the deal done. It’s something he and the organization value a ton. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Palmieri — and Zajac got that matter — would fit seamlessly with how the Isles play and are built.

Or so we thought.

Nine games since the deal got made and things really haven’t gelled the way many have hoped for. The Islanders are just 4-4-1 in that span and their offense has once again been hit or miss. Palmieri — and he is more of the focus here because he was who the trade was centered around — has only registered a goal and an assist thus far in blue and orange. That certainly isn’t going to cut it for someone fans had heard would add his goal-scoring prowess; Palmieri had tallied 20 or more goals in his previous four seasons.

Head coach Barry Trotz has tried to find him the right line mates, but nothing has translated to consistency. Palmieri himself looks like he’s going through the motions too. Look being traded to a new team means adjustment, but after let say five games, playing in a new system should become easier to figure out.

“I think the first couple of weeks all you’re really focused on is fitting in and getting to know the guys and the systems and being an impact [player],” Palmieri said last week. “They brought me in for a reason and that’s to come in here and help this team win.

So what can be done to get the 30-year-old finally going?

The options are limited. Palmieri’s been on the third line, second line and the power play already. That leaves just one alternative: giving Palmieri first line duties with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. This might be the actual solution.

Palmieri can score and has an underrated shot that line has been lacking for a long time. There’s been flashes of it over his short stay with the club so far.

Trotz indicated yesterday after his team practiced that he was going to switch some things up on the top line to find a spark following a bad 6-3 loss on Saturday night at home to the Capitals. Palmieri getting the call for that switch could be a huge motivator. It would show the trust the coaching staff has in him to do the heavy-lifting on that line despite he being more of a skill guy. Trotz has thrown Zajac and Leo Komarov up on that line recently because they play that heavier game. As great as that sounds for the kind of balance the Isles  love having, production matters more in the long run. That’s where Palmieri fits into that equation.

Furthermore, when he was in New Jersey before guys like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier came around, Palmieri was one of the go-to guys and thrived in that setting.

The playoffs are mere weeks away and the Islanders need to have Palmieri at his best. They acquired him because they believe he’s one of the pieces to the Stanley Cup puzzle. It’s crucial Palmieri begin to find his way. The Isles must help him do that beginning right now.

Yesterday marked the 46-year anniversary of the Islanders pulling off one of the greatest postseason comebacks in sports history, when they came back from down 3-0 to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

One of the great tales from that series was Ed Westfall — the Islander who scored the lone goal in game seven which was also the game-winner — having to go out for beers with the Penguins after the win because the Isles players had already abandoned the locker room while Westfall was showering.

The newly announced deal between the NHL and TNT could lead to some legendary television. Just imagine it now, Charles Barkley critiquing Mathew Barzal when the puck is on his stick. I’d pay a lot of money to watch that.

The Islanders are “All In” with their latest move

All In.

That was the feeling that took over the blue and orange cult of fans that make up Islanders Country just before 8PM last night, when news broke that the team had acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for two picks — a 2021 first-rounder, 2022 conditional fourth-rounder — and minor leaguers Mason Jobst and A.J. Greer. And with that one move the Isles made their intentions clear to the rest of the division and the league for that matter: they believe they can win a Stanley Cup.

Anticipation had been building that g.m. Lou Lamoriello was going to strike sometime before the trade deadline next Monday. Even prior to captain Anders Lee going down with a season-ending injury last month, there was plenty of chatter the Isles would be buyers. Lee’s setback only increased that thinking, as did his $7M cap hit which now became available for the organization to use. It seemed like something was afoot too from the outside when the organization’s top targets, Palmieri and Buffalo’s Taylor Hall, were being sat out by their respective teams over the past few games. Well, Lamoriello chose what he believed to be the better package, getting a two-for-one special.

The way the team responded to [Lee’s injury] and the way they came together, certainly played a role in whatever I could do to get them some support and some help,” Lamoriello said to the media following the deal. “Certainly a first round pick is what it is. I’m extremely excited about the young players we have and how they’ve come along and how they are going to gain experience through this process. I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all making the decision, especially when you’re able to acquire the two players that we did in Kyle and Travis.”

Palmieri and Zajac both bring something different to the table that won’t only help the Islanders down the stretch but in what they hope to be another long postseason run. The 30-year-old Smithtown, Long Island native brings his goal-scoring prowess to an already well-balanced attack. As my friend and colleague James Nichols pointed out this morning, Palmieri has scored 140 goals since the 2015-16 season & is scoring at a 41-point pace in 2020-21(19 goals, 22 assists). His teammate Zajac bolsters an already formidable bottom-six, is a stout penalty killer and brings plenty of veteran and championship experience. Zajac was on the Lamoriello-led Devils squad that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

He also waived his full no-move clause for the trade to go down yesterday.

That’s a testament to how the Islanders are viewed as a franchise now, one that keeps trending in the right direction and is going for it. “It’s a bolt of energy for sure,” Zajac said. “You’re excited to come in this situation and coming to a team that just does things the right way. They know how to win.”

The Islanders have been in “win-now” mode since Lamoriello arrived three years ago. He struck out the first time when he went for Mark Stone. Last year, he made his mark to get his club reinforcements — Andy Greene and J.G. Pageau — in the wake of devastating injuries. We all saw how those deals have played out. They’ve been a rousing success. But this time, he made moves to make a statement. That’s what Palmieri and Zajac are.

Lamoriello believes this group is good enough to win a Cup this year. He might not be done either.

One thing is certain, winning at all cost is the expectation now for the Isles. The moment was seized to get better and from here on forward this team is all-in on getting to the promise land.

 

New York Islanders: What will the lines look like after the Palmieri trade?

The New York Islanders have successfully completed two huge trades for top 6 forwards in the past two years. Last year, General Manager Lou Lamoriello traded away a bundle of picks for JG Pageau. That trade was regarded as one of the best trades of last year and possibly recent Islander history. Lamoriello might’ve struck gold two years in a row as he completed another trade with the New Jersey Devils last night.

The Islanders acquired Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for this year’s first-rounder, Mason Jobst, AJ Greer, and a conditional fourth-round pick. The Islanders added 2 impact forwards who will be plugged into the lineup and play as soon as possible. Where will the new additions play, though?

Kyle Palmieri

Kyle Palmieri should be playing on Mat Barzal’s left-wing as he replaces fringe bottom 6 forward Leo Komarov. This move will undoubtedly improve Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle’s assist and goal numbers. Palmieri brings the same physicality that Anders Lee always brought to the table. But, Palmieri also has an elite shot that Anders Lee does not possess. The only problem with Palmieri being on the first line is the fact that the Islanders would be brandishing three right-handed forwards on one line. It’s not a huge problem, as the second line powerplay features all left-handers, but it’s something to look out for. Palmieri brings a clutch factor that hasn’t been seen on the Island in forever and a nice power-play presence.

Travis Zajac

Travis Zajac was an interesting last-minute addition to the Kyle Palmieri trade. I believe the only reason the Devils added him to the trade was the fact that they didn’t want to resign him. Or, they felt that they couldn’t get a first-round pick for just Palmieri. Whatever the reason may be, the Islanders walk away with another good center. Zajac should not be playing center for the Islanders, though, as the Isles already have 4 good/great centers. Zajac will have to move to wing for the first time in his long, storied career. I believe he will fit in nicely on JG Pageau’s left-wing, as Oliver Wahlstrom stays at right-wing. Zajac brings experience, an excellent faceoff percentage, and an ability to play on the power play/kill.

Why the New York Islanders should stay far away from Taylor Hall

islanders, taylor hall

The New York Islanders are in the trade market after their captain Anders Lee was placed on LTIR with a torn ACL. The Islanders were gifted back Anders Lee’s cap hit for this year, which is about $7 million. The Islanders need a top 6 forward to help out Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle. There are several targets, and most of them are appealing. Guys like Conor Garland, Phil Kessel, Kyle Palmieri, Dustin Brown, Viktor Arvidsson, and many more. One of these targets, Taylor Hall, is a guy the Islanders need to stay far away from.

The Reasoning

Taylor Hall has been quite rough in his last 2 years as a player and is playing his worst Hockey right now. Currently, this kid has 2 goals, and he played alongside Jack Eichel. I know Eichel wasn’t playing his best Hockey either, but I think his stats would be inflated if Hall actually scored more than once a blue moon. All the fans keep saying is that the Isles need a goal scorer, but when it comes to Hall, there’s an exception. Hall has only one more goal than Michael Dal Colle. Taylor Hall has been on 3 teams, now 4 teams in the last 3 years. That says quite a lot about a player. And it’s gonna take value to actually get hall: Kieffer bellows, a second, and another good player. Hall would only be a half-year rental too, and it’s not worth it.

Other Options

Conor Garland is a perfect top 6 forward for the Islanders for many reasons. Garland is currently rocking 10 goals and 18 assists in 37 games for the Arizona Coyotes. He’s putting up good numbers while having Nick Schmaltz and Michael Bunting on his line. The only problem is that he will be an RFA this offseason and will look for well-deserved big money. I also believe Kyle Palmieri is the best and most realistic trade for the Islanders. Palmieri is already sitting games ahead of the trade deadline, as he currently has 17 points in 34 games. Alongside some struggling young forwards, Palmieri is due for a change of scenery. It’ll be a relatively cheap trade to get him.