The dust has settled (barely) on the New York Islanders big trade from last night. Lou Lamoriello needed to add to the Isles forward core and he did it in a big way by plucking two guys he knows pretty well from his former team.
The trade clearly signals to Lou’s Islanders squad and to the NHL in general that the New York Islanders are going for it this year. The drive for five is truly alive in 2021.
Just looking at what the Isles brought in and what the Isles paid for the Devils duo, how did Lamoriello do?
What the New York Islanders gave up
In case this is the first time you’re seeing the full trade, this is what the Islanders sent to the Devils in order to bring in Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac.
The way I like to look at a trade is what did the Islanders get in terms of value and how much value did they give up? When you look at this, it really seems like the Isles didn’t give up much at all.
Yes, they gave up a first-round pick again. But how valuable is that first-rounder exactly? The Islanders already seem destined to pick late at the draft. Now combine that fact with how the global pandemic has shut down leagues around the world over the last two seasons.
The type of scouting that has been done this season (and last) is nothing close to what would be done in a normal year. The value of that first-rounder is low at best.
A conditional fourth in 2022 – becomes a third in 2022 or 2023 if the Isles make the Stanley Cup Finals this year – is borderline worthless right now. Yes, the Islanders could pull a decent player with a fourth-round pick, but for where the Islanders are right now, keeping a fourth brings nothing to the table now. It will take years before that pick turns into anything if they even do.
AJ Greer and Mason Jobst are good players, but neither of them are what you would consider prospects. Their ceiling is known and neither of them are NHL-level players. (Maybe fourth-liners on another squad.)
Moving both Greer and Jobst allows the Isles to stay under the 50 contract ceiling. So there’s a benefit to the team moving both AHL players. So in strictly accounting terms, the Isles may have even gained by moving the two.
So the biggest loss was that first-rounder and its value isn’t very high.
What They Got
Now, how much value did the Islanders add to the club?
Palmieri is a clear top-six winger. He was having a down year with the Devils but surrounded with more talent on the Island he should return to form. The 30-year-old is a consistent 20+ goal scorer. Not to mention that over the last five years, he’s scored 53 power-play goals. That’s as many as Sidney Crosby and Nikita Kucherov in the same period.
He’s the exact type of player the Islanders have been looking to add for a while. His value to this team is incredible. As a pending UFA, he’s not likely here for the long-haul, but he’ll be here for the run. And if he gets back to his best he will play a big part in that run.
In Travis Zajac, the Islanders get a great two-way forward who’s having a strong year with a not-so-great Devils squad. His 18 points in 33 games have him on pace for 45 points over 82 games.
The value he brings is depth. Say what you will about Leo Komarov and Michael Dal Colle, but Travis Zajac is a much better player than both. Not only does he score more, which is already a big help, but he’s a great two-way player and penalty killer.
He might not slap players on the bench to get them ready for a game but he’s a big upgrade over either Komarov and Dal Colle.
And the Islanders got the Devils to hold 50% of their salaries. That’s value-on-value-on-value.
So, in summation, the Isles gave up two picks they didn’t really need and that weren’t truly that valuable. They also “gave up” two prospects they didn’t really use.
What they got in return were a top-six winger and proficient power-play goal scorer and a two-way forward that is a vast upgrade over the players they’re already using.
This trade doesn’t guarantee the Islanders a cup, no trade ever will, but it does give them exactly what they need and they spent very little to get it and they still have room to make another move if they want to. I’m giving this trade an A+. It’s hard to give it less than that.