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Islanders Adding for Playoffs with Palmieri and Zajac Acquisitions

Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac expected to bolster Islanders for playoff run

by Cory Wright @WrightsWay / NewYorkIslanders.com

The New York Islanders were already in a good position heading into the stretch drive of the regular season, but Lou Lamoriello wanted bolster his roster even further.  

The Islanders acquired forwards Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for picks and prospects on Wednesday evening, solidifying their forward group ahead of Monday's trade deadline. 

In Palmieri, the Islanders are adding a reliable goal scorer, a winger who has netted 20-or-more goals in five straight seasons, and has hit the 25-goal mark in four of the last five campaigns. Palmieri's offense should help fill part of the offensive void left by the season-ending injury to captain Anders Lee. 

In Zajac, the Islanders acquire a versatile veteran center with 1,024 games of experience - all with the Devils - who can play in all situations. The 35-year-old was fourth on the Devils with 18 points (7G, 11A) this season, took the second-most faceoffs (509, with a 49.9 FOW%) and led all New Jersey forwards 2:23 SH TOI/GP this season. 

"What they bring to our team is obvious," Lamoriello, the Islanders President and GM, said on Wednesday night. "I am excited to have them be a part of our organization right now. I know what they bring on the ice, I also know who they are as people and how well they'll fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is extremely important to me, but their experience, their talents and competitiveness, especially in this division, knowing what they have to go through is exciting." 

Lamoriello said he felt he needed to add some extra support to an Islanders team that is tied for the top spot in the East Division, especially in the wake of losing Lee, who led the team in goals at the time of his injury on March 11. Lamoriello, who also made a splash at the 2020 trade deadline acquiring Jean-Gabriel Pageau, said his team deserved it and the quality of play from young players, made him comfortable with trading a first-round pick for the second-consecutive draft.

"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. "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."

In Zajac, the Islanders further bolstered their center depth, as he joins a group that includes Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson, Pageau and Casey Cizikas. The Islanders saw the importance of depth first-hand against the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year's Eastern Conference Final, as Cizikas left the series after Game 2. The Islanders are expecting to make another deep run this spring and both Zajac and Palmieri add to their depth.

"If there's a chance to get better you have to do that," Lamoriello said. "We're pretty much content with what we have and what we have right now, extremely comfortable."

Tweet from @NYIslanders: Palmieri and Zajac are excited to head to the Island! 🏝 pic.twitter.com/e2ItKeOxZd

Both Palmieri and Zajac are expected to be at Thursday's morning skate, before the Islanders take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Palmieri and Zajac's spots in the lineup have yet to be determined, but Lamoriello is confident that the two players should fit in seamlessly, given his extensive experience with both of them. Lamoriello drafted Zajac back in 2004, and had followed the career of Palmieri dating back to his days playing high school hockey in the Devils youth program. 

Lamoriello is confident his intel, experience and the familiarity his acquisitions will have with former Devils captain Andy Greene and goaltender Cory Schneider will accelerate that transition.

"We're comfortable especially at this time with some 18-20 games left, you need people to come in and you're aware of who they are as people, besides their talents," Lamoriello said. "Their talents are why you acquired them, but that they can fit in that locker room, that they'll be accepted and they will also accept the philosophy in that room." 

Judging by the deal he swung on Wednesday, Lamoriello is very comfortable and confident in the Islanders heading into the playoff push. 

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