The New York Islanders acquired the Smithtown native, Kyle Palmieri, at the 2021 NHL trade deadline to provide some offensive punch after Isles captain, Anders Lee, went down with a season-ending injury. That's in fact what the Islanders received when Palmieri scored seven goals and nine points in the 2021 playoffs, helping propel the Isles through three rounds to the Eastern Conference Final before they were eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Because of Palmieri's strong performance in the playoffs, GM Lou Lamoriello decided to expose Jordan Eberle the following summer in the expansion draft and the Seattle Kraken plucked him from the Islanders roster. Lamoriello then extended Palmieri to a four-year, $20 million dollar contract which felt like a hefty number for a player that was entering his age-30 season in the NHL.
The 2021-22 season was a difficult one for the Islanders, but especially for Palmieri who had a below-average regular season, despite eventually providing some solid depth scoring in the playoffs.
A Tale of Two Seasons
The Islanders started last season on a seemingly endless road trip that put them, but that's not what put them behind the eight-ball starting the season 5-2-2 on the road. As the season progressed, the Islanders suffered key injuries and Covid cases. Truly a season to forget.
Like the team, Palmieri started the season off slow. He then fell victim to the injury bug at the time the Islanders' season took went into a tailspin. Palmieri registered just one goal between October and January, totaling seven points. Hardly the production expected by Lamoriello and company when they committed a $5 million cap hit to the former first-round pick.
In February, Palmieri turned things around a bit and scored 14 goals from February until the end of the season. Unfortunately, this production was too little too late. It also came at a time when the pressure was down with the playoff hopes far from attainable.
Can Palmieri repeat Second Half?
The beginning of the season showed struggles through line combinations. With the loss of Eberle to the Kraken, Palmieri got the first shot at playing on Mathew Barzal's wing. The chemistry was not evident and the results showed. Barzal struggled and Anders Lee was feeling his way back from an injury. The formula mixed like oil and vinegar which resulted in early failure from a team and individual standpoint.
Former head coach Barry Trotz was hesitant to adjust the lineup giving his veterans too long of a leash and refrained from giving his younger players a shot to play in the top-6. There's speculation that Trotz's lineup decisions with the youth may have been part of the reason for his departure.
Palmieri will need to return to his 20-goal performance for the Islanders to rebound from a down season and justify the next three years of his contract. He may be better suited for a decreased role in the middle six, likely on the third line with J.G. Pageau and Zach Parise, relieving the pressure to put up top-6 points and he will be playing with two extremely responsible forwards.
As currently constructed, the returning players that underachieved last season will have a big say on whether the Islanders return to playoff action.