A top-six forward to replace Lee and invigorate the Islanders’ middling offense and power play seemed like an obvious choice. The Islanders acquired wing Kyle Palmieri and the veteran center Travis Zajac from the Devils on Wednesday in exchange for a first-round pick in 2021, a conditional fourth-rounder in 2022 and a pair of minor-league forwards.
The Devils retained 50 percent of Palmieri and Zajac’s salaries, which expire after this season, so the Islanders could still pursue another move before Monday’s deadline.
“I’m excited to have them a part of our organization right now,” said Lou Lamoriello, the Islanders’ general manager. Lamoriello had drafted Zajac in the first round in 2004 during his tenure with the Devils. “I know what they bring on the ice. I also know who they are as people, how well they will fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is extremely important to me.”
The Capitals and the Penguins are each up against the salary cap. Washington could most use depth at center, where a pair of injuries exposed the team early in the season, and in goal, where its two primary netminders had only 61 games combined of N.H.L. experience entering this month.
Pittsburgh is peaking at the right time, and its recent play hasn’t shown many deficiencies. In years past, the Penguins were bold at the trade deadline, but they are under new management, that of the first-year General Manager Ron Hextall, who in the past with the Flyers was traditionally more conservative than his predecessor, Jim Rutherford. The Penguins also do not have a first, third or fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft, but could have some salary cap flexibility if center Evgeni Malkin remains on long-term injured reserve until the playoffs.
The Devils and Buffalo are likely to be sellers, with the Sabres having preemptively scratched Taylor Hall, the 2018 most valuable player, from recent games, according to multiple reports. Even after trading Palmieri, the Devils have three veteran defensemen headed toward unrestricted free agency this season and two more next year.