There is a lot of excitement around the New Jersey Devils #6 overall pick, Pavel Zacha. But the biggest move for new GM Ray Shero at this weekend’s NHL Entry Draft was the trade he made right at the end of the first round, adding former Anaheim Duck and New Jersey native Kyle Palmieri in exchange for one of the Devils’ 2nd round picks (41 overall) and a 2016 pick.
Everyone knew the Devils needed to add a top 6 forward but with a weak UFA market, and a history of overpaying forwards who were past their prime (see: Ryane Clowe, Michael Ryder, Martin Havlat, etc.), no one knew where this forward would come from. It also seemed the most prevalent trade rumors were for prospects such as the Oilers‘ Leon Draisaitl. While adding a top level talent like Draisaitl would be nice – and may still be on the horizon, the Devils really needed an established NHL player.
Palmieri, who was born in New York, but raised in Montvale, NJ, returns to his home state to potentially be a top line forward. He’s certainly not a dynamic player like his former teammates Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf, but on a team full of role players, adding a piece like Palmieri will be a welcome addition. His 29 points (in only 57 games) would have been 6th on the 2014-2015 Devils roster, behind players including Steve Bernier and Scott Gomez who were both informed over the weekend they will not be re-signed. He also would’ve been 4th in goals with 14. This is a great reminder of just how inept the Devils offense was last season.
The Devils still need a lot of help on offense, but adding a 24-year-old with a knack for scoring is a good step. There is some concern that he’ll already be an RFA after next season, but assuming he has a solid year, you would hope the Devils won’t make the same mistake they made with Zach Parise and get Palmieri signed long-term. And this time, there aren’t any big named Russians to distract ownership from locking up their young talent.
Ray Shero still has work ahead of him with the pending free agency period beginning July 1, but between the deal for Palmieri and his work in the draft, the beginning of the post-Lou era, is looking cautiously optimistic.