Kyle Palmieri was a healthy scratch on Sunday for the game against the Washington Capitals. It was known even then that the New Jersey Devils could not work an extension out with their right-winger. Tom Fitzgerald’s weekend meeting was honestly to take one last run while going over trade possibilities.
Then, by Wednesday, things had changed. Not one but two forwards would be moved out of New Jersey.
This was a significant deal for New Jersey in a number of ways. Let’s dig in.
New Jersey Receives That First-Round Pick And More
It was something talked about for some time. Tom Fitzgerald danced around it a bit but New Jersey was trying to get a first in 2021. It took trading two players to accomplish the task but Fitzgerald got this done. Remember, the New York Islanders had to take in approximately $5.2 million in cap space. That meant New Jersey would retain the other half to aid the deal. Travis Zajac waived his NMC and literally on Wednesday evening, a deal was made. The tell-tale sign may have been when it was revealed that Zajac was not in Buffalo ahead of Thursday night’s game. There will be more on Zajac at a later time.
Obviously, no one knows how high of a pick this first-round pick will be. It could be anywhere from 17th to 32nd in theory. The 2021 NHL Draft is one that expects to be a bit weaker than most years but one never knows. All it takes is that one pick to change a franchise’s fortunes. That being said, Tom Fitzgerald granted two players their wish to head to a contender. In turn, New Jersey gets two prospects who can help in Binghamton in A.J. Greer and Mason Jobst. While Jobst is more of a role player, Greer may be able to help Binghamton with their offense.
Also, there is that conditional 2022 draft pick that could turn into a third-round pick if the New York Islanders make the Stanley Cup Final.
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Some Notable Things Mentioned By Tom Fitzgerald Explained
This is why it sometimes pays to be cognizant of verbal and talking cues. Fitzgerald made it very clear for the first time in a while on Wednesday night that “he was here for the youth movement…for the duration…to see these players grow”. It is clear that the general manager is staying in New Jersey. There were some rumblings earlier in the season that the general manager might entertain offers elsewhere — even in Pittsburgh. That appears not to be the case now.
Again, he allowed Travis Zajac and even Kyle Palmieri to make their decision — particularly Zajac. When a player plays over 1,000 games with one team, he more than earns that right to determine his next stop on the hockey journey. Fitzgerald mentioned it several times. Zajac was a consummate professional. Even when his skills declined, he fought as hard as anyone to fight that. He worked harder. He ate healthier. The center did whatever he had to do and yet never acted negatively outwardly. There were many times Zajac could have done so.
The impression was also that the door was not shut on either though unknown if either Zajac or Palmieri would entertain a return to New Jersey. The most important thing stressed was now the youth is in a position to step up and lead. New Jersey’s average age is now under 25. When Nico Hischier returns, the longest-tenured player will be Damon Severson. The most important thing is that Hischier learned leadership from a player like Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri also. That goes for a lot of the younger Devils players.
Over the final six weeks, Fitzgerald lastly alluded that the young players will have that chance to step up. If some do not, they will simply find ones that will. It was not a matter of fact and was clearly mentioned for emphasis. He concurred that a player like Miles Wood has risen a level or two this season with his expanded role. It will be intriguing to see who else does and if Jack Hughes can regain his form. That will be important going forward.
Fitzgerald did not appear done with making trades. There were subtle hints that multiple players could still be on the move and that teams were talking. Nothing was imminent but as we know with trades, if it is quiet, look out!
Lastly, the one thing Tom Fitzgerald just did was set the market and table for what’s to come over the next five days and change. It should be interesting.