NHL Trade Deadline Primer: The Devils’ Kyle Palmieri dilemma

The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, April 12 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be moved by then. We continue today with New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri.

New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald has a big decision to make over the next couple of weeks regarding forward Kyle Palmieri.

The Devils are going to miss the playoffs for the third year in a row and eighth time in the past 10 years and are almost certainly going to be sellers at the trade deadline again. Palmieri, as a pending unrestricted free agent, is going to be their most attractive trade chip.

Assuming they want to trade him.

There is almost certainly some incentive for the Devils to try and keep Palmieri beyond this season. He has been a rock for them over the past five-and-a-half years, consistently scoring at a 25-30 goal pace over 82 games. He is a proven finisher on a team that lacks them while making a positive impact defensively. It makes a lot of sense to try and keep him.

The risk with that path is that he just turned 30 years old, has already showed some signs of slowing down this season, and has probably already given the Devils his most productive hockey. How is his production going to look into his 30s? It is a fair question to wonder if a new contract extension will be worth what the Devils will get back on the ice.

[Related: Taylor Hall trade would benefit everybody]

But this is also a lousy time to try and trade him because he is currently having his worst season in years and the Devils would be selling at the lowest possible value.

Neither situation provides an ideal outcome. You either keep him, risk losing him for nothing, or sign him to a contract that may not work out long-term.

Or you trade him in the middle of his least productive season in years when he has no term remaining on his contract.

What the return might look like

This is definite second-round pick and mid-level prospect territory. Palmieri is a good player, but not a great player. He is having a solid season, but below his normal level of production. Add in the fact that he is a pending free agent and it is probably not quite enough to get a first-round pick like the Devils got for Blake Coleman or Taylor Hall a year ago.

[Related: Predators changes can start with Ekholm trade]

The most logical landing spots: Boston, Edmonton, Pittsburgh, New York Islanders, Toronto

Pittsburgh and New York have some injury concerns at the moment and would make sense in that regard. The Penguins are currently playing without Evgeni Malkin, Jason Zucker, Teddy Blueger, and Brandon Tanev at forward, while Kasperi Kapanen left their most recent game against Buffalo. The timeline for returns on those players would definitely impact their need for a trade, while the salary cap situation and prospect pool could be an obstacle, but Palmieri could be an option. The same is true for the Islanders who could have used the scoring depth even before Anders Lee was lost for the season.

Boston and Edmonton are similar in the sense that they are playoff teams that are completely top heavy and have a significant need for secondary scoring.

Toronto just seems like a shark circling in the water this trade deadline, looking to go all in. They may never have a better chance at going for it all than they do this season. That is not to say this season is their only chance with this group, but it is going to be the best chance they have had yet and it is a prime opportunity.

Wild Card team: Staying with New Jersey

The Chris Kreider situation. A rebuilding team has a pending free agent that is a very good player that it wants to keep. This is not beyond the realm of possibility as there does seem to be some mutual interest between the Devils and Palmieri in working out a deal. In the short-term it makes sense (again, the Devils need finishers and Palmieri is a finisher) but will it make sense in the long-term? Given where the Devils are at the moment in their development, long-term should be the focus.

Spot I want to see just for fun: Columbus

A couple of years ago the Blue Jackets were a fringe playoff team and went crazy at the deadline giving up multiple picks and prospects to acquire Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel while not trading their own pending free agents. It was the type of aggressiveness you do not see from most general managers these days. It resulted in a playoff berth and one of the more shocking postseason updates (a four-game sweep of the 62-win Tampa Bay Lightning) in recent memory. Was it worth it in the long-run? That is certainly up for some debate. But it sure was fun. The Blue Jackets are a fringe playoff team again this season, have already made one massive trade this season (Pierre-Luc Dubois for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic), and have a need for more offense. Get weird again, Columbus.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction: New York Islanders

Palmieri would be a fine replacement for the rest of this season and playoffs for Lee on the top line and does not cost them a huge return in terms of picks or prospects. Fair deal, right situation, and it helps a contender get some much needed offense.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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