New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri (21) scores on the Boston Bruins during a NHL game.

Kyle Palmieri: The Next Domino to Fall?

Just eight days until the NHL trade deadline. And with revisions to ease the quarantine period for US-Canadian transactions, GMs are free to act with business as usual. That is, awaiting the next domino to fall. Perhaps within single-digit hours before the deadline.

Is Kyle Palmieri that domino? And if so, are we getting closer to clarity on the situation? Or, depending on how you look at it, closure.

[UPDATE: Kyle Palmieri will not be in the Devils lineup on Sunday versus Washington. The club says he is out for “precautionary reasons”]

Palmieri, the native son, who grew up in Montville, played in the Devils youth program and for St. Peter’s Prep, was drafted by Anaheim in the first round in 2009. Six seasons later and his return to New Jersey on draft night in 2015 has been more than a homecoming. In 397 games, Palmieri has 140 goals and 266 points. Though he hasn’t bested his career-high in goals and points (30–57) from his first season with the Devils in 15-16, he’s led the team in scoring in four of five seasons.

A pending unrestricted free agent and the Devils sitting 11 points outside the playoff picture, it seems more likely than not, that the winger could be one of the dominos to fall in short order, though reports have maintained the Devils are trying to come to terms on a contract extension–similar to a year ago when the Rangers opted to sign Chris Kreider to a seven-year, $45.5 million extension. Numbers haven’t leaked from Palmieri’s camp, which is led by Steve Bartlett of the U.S. agency, Bartlett Hockey, but a sensible guess could be in the neighborhood of $6 million AAV on a five-year deal. Maybe sub-$6 million with a sixth season of term?

Despite just a single playoff round in his New Jersey tenure, a quick five-game series with Tampa in 2018, Palmieri has expressed a desire to stick around with a team that could be showing flashes of what’s to come with the emergence of youth and more on the way including three 2020 first rounders. General manager, Tom Fitzgerald played a part in trading for the supplemental picks–assistant GM for the Hall swap (Dawson Mercer, 18th), interim GM for the Blake Coleman deal that returned 2019 first rounder, Nolan Foote and 2020’s 20th pick (Shakir Mukhamadullin). But, the question has to eventually be: at what point does the selling of unknown commodities fail to satisfy a fanbase?

This year not withstanding, but it’s a fanbase that has become used to meaningless March and April hockey and none in May and June. That wasn’t the case for the longest time. And if Palmieri is dealt it will be another bit of familiarity: sending a popular player on his way via trade.

Taylor Hall was the first player in franchise history to win a league MVP. Brian Boyle managed his third-best scoring season despite losing part of the 2017-18 season after being diagnosed with leukemia, earning him deserved kudos, but he was dealt a season later for a playoff run with Nashville. Vatanen, who was once upon a time the principal part of trading fan-favorite, Adam Henrique, was rented to Carolina and though he returned to NJ via free agency, he could again be traded. Coleman, the club’s resident pickle-juice drinker, who turned the gag into a community program to benefit the youth of Newark, got a ring and seems ecstatic to be a member of the Lightning and Andy Greene, an undrafted, 15-year Devil, still looks weird in Islander orange and blue–but he’s chasing a Cup and that’s as good a spot to be as any for that.

All have came and left. As fans return back to arenas including the Prudential Center, they will debate their next sweater pick–or in fact agonize over fear of being a dusty collectible that only stands to recount a stop in their careers.

Which is why you have to at least think internally the upstairs brass is contemplating its options for extending No. 21.

Yes, there will be takers if his services are up for auction: the aforementioned Islanders, the formidable Bruins, who have been tormented by the winger this season; the Penguins, searching for secondary scoring, Toronto and Edmonton as they try and bolster their squads and odds in the NHL’s North division; Colorado and Vegas, the latter of which has maintained a scouting presence at the Prudential Center since February and Minnesota, who has had their eyes on the team as of late as well. Tampa is unlikely to accommodate Palmieri’s cap number with the same ease as they could with Coleman’s $1.8 million figure, but the Panthers and Hurricanes are in the rather enviable position of contenders with cap flexibility.

But deals are tough to come by in today’s economics. And just as Fitzgerald and Co. are debating an extension, they’re also weighing the options of swaps–many teams likely requesting the Devils eat contracts to facilitate a deal. The more eaten and retained, the better return. Some of Stanley’s contenders might also like the double-dip option by way of New Jersey absorbing a contract with term to help a finance a shopping spree of sorts. Again, they’ll have to weigh the compensation to do such a tall task in these unprecedented times.

One way or the other we’ll have our clarity..err, closure on it all.