On Apr. 8, 2021, the New Jersey Devils traded their two most experienced players, Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri to the New York Islanders and received two players, a 2021 first, and 2022 fourth round pick.
🚨 TRADE ALERT 🚨
We have acquired AJ Greer, Mason Jobst, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2022 conditional fourth-round pick in exchange for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. #NJDevils | @investorsbank pic.twitter.com/BGFm6E0dE0
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) April 7, 2021
In exchange for Palmieri (All-Star in 2020) and Zajac, a 15-year NHL veteran whose played his whole career for New Jersey, the Devils received two players, A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst. According to Sascha Kandrach of NHL.com, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello "hand-selected Zajac back in the first round (20th overall) of the 2004 NHL Draft."
However, from New Jersey general manager Tom Fitzgerald's point of view, he made out well in getting Isles' GM Lou Lamoriello to trade a 2021 first round pick and 2022 fourth round pick in exchange for two quality veteran forwards. There is also a condition on the fourth round pick the Islanders traded to New Jersey. If the Isles reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2021, then the Devils would receive a third-round-pick from the Islanders.
Devils Prepare for 2021, 2022 NHL Drafts
In this article on NHL.com, Fitzgerald explained the importance of receiving two draft picks in exchange for two veteran players.
"That [first round] pick gives us flexibility. You can move back or use it," Fitzgerald said. "It gives you flexibility to potentially add to a position of need or a player that comes across the board."
At the 2020 NHL Draft, 'Jersey's Team' made out like bandits. Last year, the Devils made three first-round-picks. The Devils picked Swedish forward Alexander Holtz in the ninth-spot, center Dawson Mercer at 18, and defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin at 21.
As soon as Holtz was selected, Devils fans rejoiced that their team had drafted a pure-scorer. Holtz possesses a wicked wrist shot which he can release quickly on the rush or in the slot. Holtz is still a babe, just 19 years-of-age and is currently playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with Djurgardens.
In 40 games in the SHL this season, the Devils' 2020 first-round-pick has notched seven goals and 11 assists (18 points). With the recent promotion of Tyce Thompson to the lineup, it's either more likely that Holtz receives a call-up, because the team is giving their prospects a shot right now, or less likely because there is no spot available right now for Holtz.
What the Future Holds for Jersey's Team
With the Devils currently sitting in seventh-place in the MassMutual East Division and outside the playoff-hunt, it is clear that this trade was all about stockpiling draft picks for the future. By receiving a first round pick for two aging forwards with decent scoring ability, New Jersey's general manager Tom Fitzgerald has done well with this trade.
As it stands, the Devils coaching staff turns their eye to the team's youngest players. One of the team's best-looking forwards through two games is Tyce Thompson. The 21-year-old scored his first NHL point, an assist the Buffalo Sabres on April 6, 2021 at the Devils' home arena, the Prudential Center. He has mostly shown promise by hustling, being active on the forecheck, and even taking a few decisive shots on goal in his first two games. It's too early to say if he's going to make it in the NHL, but fans will have to wait and see if the college kid can become an NHL forward in the last month of the season.
As for the Devils trade with the Islanders, it happened right after Zajac celebrated a milestone with his original club. Earlier in March, Zajac played his 1,000th game in a Devils uniform and he spoke about what this franchise in New Jersey, the only one he's ever known has meant to him during a long 15-year NHL career.
"The organization has meant everything to me," said Zajac. "They gave me my first shot at the NHL … they just helped me grow as a hockey player, as a person. I'm going to remember some of the playoff runs we've had, the players I've played with, obviously this year was a big milestone with playing my 1000th game as a New Jersey Devil. All those things have meant to me, and I'll cherish and remember them forever."
Kyle Palmieri played each of the last five season with the Devils. During that time, the Smithtown, NY-native led the Devils in point-scoring in four out of those five seasons. Palmieri represented New Jersey at the 2020 NHL All-Star game.
Looking back at the five seasons in New Jersey, Palmieri offered these emotional words.
"I'm incredibly grateful for my time in New Jersey and I made a lot of great friends. It's an awesome organization and a lot of friendships with teammates that will last a lifetime."