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Devils trade Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac to Islanders for first-round pick, prospects

Robert Aitken Jr., The Record on

Published in Hockey

Two of the longest tenured Devils players have moved on.

With days remaining until the NHL trade deadline, the Devils have traded Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac to the Islanders. The teams announced the trade on Wednesday. It will return a 2021 first-round pick, a conditional fourth-round pick and prospects AJ Greer and Mason Jobst to the Devils.

Palmieri, 30, now finds himself on the third NHL team in his career after six seasons with the Devils. Palmieri was able to play for his hometown Devils after he was dealt by the Anaheim Ducks on June 26, 2015. The Ducks had drafted Palmieri in the first round of the 2009 NHL entry draft, six years to the day before his trade to New Jersey.

Zajac has played all 1,024 of his career games with the Devils. The 15-year veteran is statistically one of the greatest players in franchise history, ranked in the top five in games played, goals, assists and shots. Zajac had a no-trade clause that reportedly was waived. Zajac did not travel with the team to Buffalo for Thursday's game with the Sabres.

Across 397 games with the Devils, Palmieri has been one of the strongest scorers in franchise history. Palmieri notched 140 goals and 126 assists for New Jersey in his tenure. Palmieri was also a reliable part of the Devils' power play over the years. His 53 power-play goals for the Devils ranks him tied for fourth in team history. Palmieri also ranks among the top 25 in team history in goals, points, even-strength goals and shots on goal.

 

Speculation on this trade was brewing as Palmieri's trade stock improved in March. Palmieri had a rough start to the season with no goals and three assists before the Devils were placed into COVID-19 protocol at the end of January. Palmieri bounced back and had 17 points in 34 games, including four goals in his final eight games with the Devils.

In the last year of a five-year, $23.25 million deal, discussions on an extension broke down last month. An extension could have kept Palmieri in New Jersey, but also could have exposed him to July's expansion draft with the Seattle Kraken. The Devils have held Palmieri out of the lineup since April 4 in anticipation of a trade, according to agent Stephen Bartlett.

Zajac's involvement in the trade is a bit of a shock considering that he had been involved in the Devils offense leading to his final game with the Devils on Tuesday. Zajac had seven goals and 11 assists in 33 games this season. While Zajac's recent play had boosted his trade stock, combining the two longest-tenured Devils in the same deal has been a shock to Devils fans.

The duo will join the Islanders, who are tied for first place in the East division and in a strong position for a playoff run. Neither Palmieri nor Zajac have won a Stanley Cup in their careers and will get a chance to do so with a contender in the Islanders. They will both also join longtime teammate Andy Greene, who was traded by the Devils last February after six seasons with Palmieri and 14 seasons alongside Zajac.

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