Whenever Lou Lamoriello has discussed the factors he considers when adding players to the Islanders, the reigning general manager of the year values “the right fit” over anything else.
We saw it with Jean-Gabriel Pageau at last season’s trade deadline, when the Islanders acquired the small-but-mighty center from the Senators in exchange for a haul of picks. Pageau then immediately signed a six-year, $30 million extension to remain with the Islanders through 2026.
Lamoriello didn’t hesitate to commit to Pageau, who repeatedly expressed his insatiable desire to prove himself worthy of that display of faith in him. Fast forward 61 games, Pageau has given the Islanders tremendous depth down the middle, contributed in big games and made the third line productive despite a revolving door of wingers.
There’s a possibility that Kyle Palmieri, one half of the Isles’ trade deadline acquisitions this year, could be headed down the same path.
“He’s an Islander,” Pageau said after Palmieri’s overtime winner in Game 1 of the Penguins series. “He’s so competitive, winning all his battles, being hard on the puck. That’s how we play the game and he fits right in.”
Palmieri, who was traded to the Islanders along with Travis Zajac after 5 ½ seasons with the Devils, is getting evaluated every game this postseason – and he’s played like it. Set to become an unrestricted free agent after the playoffs, when the five-year, $23.25 million contract he signed with the Devils in 2016-17 expires, Palmieri has been competing for a new contract since he arrived on Long Island in April.
While the Islanders’ need for depth was exacerbated by Anders Lee’s season-ending knee injury, Palmieri has complemented what the team already has in place, adding more grit and a responsible style of play.
Through eight games so far this postseason, the Smithtown-born winger has scored four goals and dished one assist.
“An underrated skill is his ability to win pucks in dirty areas,” Trotz said Thursday, ahead of Game 3 against the Bruins at Nassau Coliseum. “Last game was pretty evident, if you just watched shift to shift, he was able to win a puck that was a 50-50 puck. Even on the goal, there’s a little bit of a battle at the net and somehow, some way, he finds a way to do it.
“I think that’s the one thing that, especially in playoff hockey when it’s about probably more will than skill, he has a really good combination of that.”
Palmieri, who turned 30 in February, could be signed to a two-to-three year deal that would keep him around for the Isles’ Stanley Cup window. He likely would command at least a $5 million average annual value on the open market, but may stay with the Islanders for less considering he’s repeatedly acknowledged how much it means to him to compete for a local team.
“He’s a good guy, he’s a funny guy,” Brock Nelson of Palmieri. “He’s quiet but he has some humor. He’s a good addition for us. Just goes about his business, works hard and plays the game hard. He’s getting rewarded right now with some big results. [He’s a] big part of our success.”