After the New Jersey Devils kicked off the 2019-20 campaign with a dismal 0-4-2 record, it seemed as though the primary focus surrounding the team entailed Taylor Hall’s future status.
Hall, 28, is a pending unrestricted free agent this offseason and trading the 2018 Hart Memorial Trophy winner seems inevitable. (from ‘LeBrun: What options do the Devils have with Taylor Hall — and who could swing a trade?,’ The Athletic, 12/1/2019) There’s fear that if the Devils choose not to trade No. 9 by the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline, then New Jersey could lose him to free agency while not receiving any valuable compensation in return.
However, with New Jersey’s ongoing struggles, there’s another goalscorer who the Devils might consider parting ways with, as well.
Should the Devils also consider trading forward Kyle Palmieri? Yes.
A Look at the Team’s Current Situation
Entering the 2019-20 campaign, general manager Ray Shero drafted a total of 42 skaters since taking over the Devils during the 2015-16 offseason. Of those 42 draft picks, 12 of them have proceeded to dress in at least one NHL game with the team.
Six of those 12 players are on the team’s current roster; Jesper Boqvist, Jesper Bratt, Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, Pavel Zacha and goaltender MacKenzie Blackwood.
The percentage of Shero’s draft picks playing in an NHL game (28.6%) since he took over the front office’s reigns is compelling, but at the time of writing only three of those players in Hischier, Hughes and Blackwood have displayed legitimate promise for Jersey. The sample size is still too small for Boqvist, and both Zacha and Bratt’s overall performances have arguably been inconsistent over the past few seasons.
New Jersey awaits other promising Shero draft picks, such as defenseman Ty Smith, plus forwards Joey Anderson and Tyce Thompson; but it seems that it couldn’t harm the Devils to stock up on more draft picks.
The Devils are in the basement of the Eastern Conference for the second-straight year and have displayed zero hope of turning around their season. Signs are pointing towards the team drafting the No. 1 overall pick for the third time under the Shero regime.
Given that the Devils move on from Hall and potentially other veteran skaters, it’s fair to say that New Jersey should consider holding onto Palmieri and avoid trading him away this season.
The right-handed sniper’s contract does entail a Modified No-Trade Clause, which per CapFriendly is “an eight-team no-trade list.”
The winger has also displayed the necessary heart and passion on a nightly basis for the Devils and he could act as a mentor for the younger skaters mentioned above. It’s arguable to point out that the Devils would want to hold on to an asset that’s in the prime of his career, while they move on from another such as Hall. If not, then the Devils’ overall performance on the ice could be worse next season than it is in 2019-20.
Keep in mind that New Jersey’s current captain, Andy Greene, is a UFA this offseason. It shouldn’t come as a shock if the 37-year-old retired after this season, which would leave the captaincy vacant, as well as a strong veteran presence missing from the team’s locker room.
Why the Devils Should Trade Palmieri
While Palmieri was acquired prior to the 2015-16 regular season via trade, no other Devils player has netted more goals since 2016-17, which also marked Hall’s first season with the team. No. 21 has found the back of the net on 86 occasions since Hall joined the Devils. The NHL’s 2018 MVP in Hall has scored 74 goals in that same duration with more than half recorded in 2017-18.
Yes, Hall has dressed in 35 fewer games as a Devil than Palmieri since 2016-17, but the numbers speak volumes towards Palmieri’s trade value. If Hall’s value is as high as some experts such as SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman are projecting, then Palmieri’s return could be worth intriguing value for a struggling New Jersey squad and one that needs to truly focus on the future.
No, Palmieri isn’t a UFA this offseason, but he is after 2020-21. As noted earlier in this post, the Devils don’t appear to be in the mix as a contender next season either; so testing the trade market for Palmieri now may benefit the team more so than next season. The more prospects or draft picks the team can collect, the greater the likelihood is that Jersey could acquire valuable talent to build around franchise skaters such as Hischier and Hughes.
One can think that any teams that might show interest in trading for but lose out on the Hall sweepstakes could then show interest in Palmieri; especially if they’re a Stanley Cup contender.
It’s time to move on from some notable skaters and ones that aren’t a focus to build around over the course of the next few seasons. A Palmieri trade could benefit the Devils for the future that unfortunately needs to arrive sooner than later for a playoff-hungry fanbase.
Kyle McKenna is a social media specialist & freelancer who also covers the NHL for Elite Sports New York, Fansided & Hooked On Hockey Magazine.