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 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.