Kyle Palmieri

Devils’ Palmieri paints, hopes NHL return in picture

Kyle Palmieri has been trying to keep busy around his Long Island home, doing a lot of painting projects. Walls and ceilings, mostly.

As for a bright picture of the NHL resuming play, the New Jersey Devils forward isn’t sure.

”Hopefully, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel where we’re going to be returning and finishing our regular season,” Palmieri said Monday in a conference call.

The NHL has not released plans for resuming the season, or even opening team facilities to get players in shape.

The NBA on Monday pushed back the possible reopening date of some team practice facilities for at least a week until May 8 at the earliest.

”I think the biggest challenge is obviously not really knowing if there’s an end or when the end is going to be or if we’re returning to playing or not,” Palmieri said.

”But right now, I mean, a lot of that’s out of our control. It’s all you can really do is stay at home and try and stay safe and make sure that you’re doing whatever you can to support the people who are out there fighting this disease,” he said.

Palmieri is one of the Devils’ representatives in the players’ union, along with goaltender Cory Schneider. Palmieri has stayed in touch with the union on a regular basis and relayed information to his teammates.

”You want to keep that banter going and guys are staying in touch and doing whatever we can to make it feel a little more normal,” the Devils’ leading scorer said.

There have been some reports the NHL might return at some point with with only the top 24 teams finishing a shortened regular season. If that was the case, the Devils (28-29-12) would see their season end.

The Devils have 68 points and 13 games left, and are 13 points out of a wild-card playoff spot.

”I think guys are trying to do their best to keep themselves ready, whether it be 24 teams that get brought back or the entire (league) to finish out the regular season,” the 29-year-old Palmieri said. ”We just we just don’t know.”

The last time the Devils gathered as a team was on the morning of March 12, at the Prudential Center in Newark for a pregame workout before hosting the Carolina Hurricanes that night. They never skated.

The rumors that the NHL was going to pause the season were circulating and it wasn’t long before the league put the season on hold because of the virus outbreak.

If the Devils get a chance to play again this season, there will be safety concerns. Players, most of whom have not had access to ice time, will need a training camp to get ready. There also has to be precautions if teams have to travel.

”With what’s going on in the world, it’s a huge factor in it, making sure that everyone’s safe,” Palmieri said.

Palmieri misses his teammates and playing in the NHL, yet keeps that in perspective.

”But there are people going through a lot worse and fighting for their lives,” Palmieri said. ”And like I said before, the people on the front line fighting this every day and how how much of a unselfish attitude you have to wake up every day and put yourself and your families at risk in making sure that people are staying healthy. You have to be supportive any way they can.”

The Buzzer: Hats off to Dustin Brown; Saros shuts out Stars again

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have nothing to play for at this point, they traded several key players before the NHL trade deadline, and they are all of a sudden playing their best hockey of the season. With Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Minnesota Wild they are now 8-2-1 in their past 11 games and have won five games in a row. Those wins during that stretch have come against Calgary, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Florida, Vegas, Toronto, and Minnesota. All teams either in a playoff spot or competing for one. The big star for them on Saturday was veteran winger Dustin Brown who scored three goals, an assist, and five shots on goal

2. Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators. The Predators picked up back-to-back massive wins against the Dallas Stars in their past two games, and it was Saros leading the way in both with consecutive shutouts. After stopping all 33 shots he faced in a 3-0 win on Thursday, he was even better on Saturday by turning aside 37 shots in a 1-0 win. Ryan Ellis scored the only goal for Nashville on Saturday. With the Predators fighting desperately for a playoff spot, Saros turned aside all 70 shots he faced in two games against one of the league’s best teams. That is called coming through when your team needs you most.

3. Mikko Koskinen, Edmonton Oilers. Koskinen was nearly flawless for the Oilers on Saturday, stopping 46 out of 47 shots from the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-1 win. The win moved the Oilers back into first place (by tiebreaker ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights) in the Pacific Division as they have won four out of their past five games.

Other notable performances from Saturday

  • The Philadelphia Flyers extended their winning streak to nine games thanks to two goals from Claude Giroux and another huge game from Carter Hart. Read all about it here.
  • Nic Dowd scored two goals for the Washington Capitals as they dominated the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • The New Jersey Devils played spoiler on Saturday by beating their arch-rivals, the New York Rangers, thanks to two-goal efforts from Travis Zajac and Kyle Palmieri.
  • The Florida Panthers kept their playoff hopes alive with a big 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens.

Highlights of the Night

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Boston Bruins had a lot of chaos, including this stretch where they scored two shorthanded goals in 62 seconds. You can read more about the chaos from this game right here.

Blooper of the Night

Sabres goalie Carter Hutton had a bad time on this play.

Controversial play of the Night

The Carolina Hurricanes snapped their losing streak with a huge overtime win against the New York Islanders. It was not without its controversy. It sure looked like Andrei Svechnikov set up the game-winner with a high-stick, but after review it was ruled that he did, in fact, make contact with the puck below his normal shoulder level. Do you agree?

Playoff Push

Scores

Carolina Hurricanes 3, New York Islanders 2 (OT)
Washington Capitals 5, Pittsburgh Penguins 2
Nashville Predators 1, Dallas Stars 0
Los Angeles Kings 7, Minnesota Wild 3
Ottawa Senators 2, San Jose Sharks 1 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Boston Bruins 3
Florida Panthers 4, Montreal Canadiens 1
New Jersey Devils 6, New York Rangers 4
Philadelphia Flyers 3, Buffalo Sabres 1
Edmonton Oilers 4, Columbus Blue Jackets 1

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.

Trade: Bruins get Kase from Ducks for Backes, prospect, and draft pick

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It’s been assumed for weeks now that the Boston Bruins were in the market for a winger before the NHL trade deadline.

On Friday, they made it happen. It just wasn’t the winger most people were expecting.

The Bruins acquired forward Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for David Backes, the Bruins’ 2020 first-round draft pick, and defense prospect Axel Andersson.

The Bruins had previously been connected to wingers like New York’s Chris Kreider and New Jersey’s Kyle Palmieri.

Kase obviously takes them in a very different direction.

He is still only 24 years old, signed through next season at a salary cap hit of just $2.4 million, and will still only be a restricted free agent once that contract expires. In other words, he is not a rental, and is instead a player that could be a significant part of the Bruins’ lineup for the foreseeable future.

Now the question shifts to what he can provide them. The big question mark with Kase has always been health. Injuries have severely limited him throughout the first four years of his career (including this season) as he has managed to play in just 198 games (out of a potential 306) since the start of the 2016-17 season.

When he is healthy, though, he has shown the ability to be a top-six winger with 20-25 goal ability while also being an excellent possession driver. He has done all of that while playing on one of the most inept offensive teams in the league. He seems like the type of young player that could be on the verge of a breakout if you put him on a good team with good players around him. That opportunity will be there for him in Boston.

The other key to the deal for Boston is shedding the rest of Backes’ contract. He still has one more year remaining on a deal that pays him $6 million per season. The Bruins are retaining 25 percent of that salary. That also creates some additional salary cap space this season for another potential trade before Monday. The Bruins already have the league’s best record with 88 points as of Friday, holding a three-point lead over the surging Tampa Bay Lightning.

Whether or not Backes has any real long-term role in Anaheim remains to be seen. They could do what Carolina did with Patrick Marleau over the summer and buy him out, while netting a first-round pick and a prospect. It is still a risky trade from the Ducks’ perspective because they did not need to trade Kase, while he still has the potential to blossom into the player they originally thought he could be. If that happens in Boston, they are going to have to hope they hit on that first-round pick and that Andersson is an NHL player to make it worth it.

Andersson was selected by the Bruins in the second-round (No. 57 overall) of the 2018 NHL draft. He is currently playing for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL where he has two goals and 20 assists in 41 games played this season.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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.

NHL Trade Deadline: Non-UFAs who could move

NHL Trade Deadline
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The NHL trade deadline is just a few weeks away and we already have a pretty good idea as to which players are a good bet to be traded based on their contract situation (pending unrestricted free agents) and their current team’s place in the standings (out of the playoff picture with little hope of playing back into it).

Ottawa is almost certainly going to trade Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

The New York Rangers are probably going to trade Chris Kreider.

The Los Angeles Kings seem like a good bet to deal Tyler Toffoli.

Montreal should absolutely try to see what it can get for Ilya Kovalchuk following his brief offensive resurgence with the Canadiens.

These are the near-locks, as many pending UFA’s are on non-playoff teams. But every year there is always that surprising trade, usually one that involves in a player that still has term remaining on their contract. Last year it was Los Angeles trading Jake Muzzin and Minnesota trading Mikael Granlund.

Let’s take a look at some potential options this season.

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild

Contract remaining: Three more full seasons (through 2022-23 season) with a $5.5 million per year salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The already tried to move him (and very nearly did) on two different occasions over the past year. To be fair, that was a different general manager pulling those strings and it’s possible that Bill Guerin has a long-term vision that includes Zucker. But barring some kind of dramatic second half turnaround the Wild seem destined to miss the playoffs for a second straight year and shouldn’t be opposed to listening to offers on any player. One team that apparently has a lot of interest: Guerin’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have a need for a top-six winger with Jake Guentzel sidelined, Zucker would be a fit with their style of play, and they were one of the teams that nearly acquired him when Paul Fenton seemed hellbent on trying to trade him.

What he might cost: Zucker’s not a star, but he is a fast, two-way player that is going to score 20 goals and 50 points every year while helping out on the defensive end. With still three years remaining the Wild should easily be able to get two or three assets for him if they decide to move on: First-round pick, a good prospect or young NHL player, and one lesser “throw in” asset (late round pick, fringe prospect).

(UPDATE: Zucker has been dealt to the Penguins for a package of Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison, and a conditional first-round pick.)

Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with $5.3 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Canadiens are going nowhere this season and it could be a good opportunity to sell high on Tatar who has been simply outstanding in his season-and-a-half with the team. Since joining the Canadiens he has 43 goals and 104 points in 132 games, while also posting some of the best possession numbers in the entire league. Of the more than 660 players that have played at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey since the start of the 2018-19 season, Tatar ranks in the top-five in shot attempt share, scoring chance share, high-danger scoring chance share, expected goals share, and goal differential. Even going back to his Detroit days he is a near lock for 25 goals and is an outstanding possession driver.

What he might cost: We have some idea here because Tatar has been traded twice on this very same contract, including once at the deadline when a bad Detroit team traded him to a contender (Vegas) in 2017-18. Vegas gave up a first, second, and third round pick for him. Three assets. It was viewed as an overpayment at the time — and still is — but that’s not entirely fair. Had Tatar worked out in Vegas they would have had a top-line talent for what amounts to three low-ceiling lottery tickets. Unfortunately he got off to a slow start, never had a chance to prove himself over a full season, and was traded for Max Pacioretty (a trade that has worked out for Vegas).

Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4 million salary cap hit.

Why he could be moved: The Kings are one of the worst teams in the league and need to re-tool rapidly. Martinez is one of the few players on the team that might bring a decent return.

What he might cost: Los Angeles traded Jake Muzzin last season under almost the exact same circumstances — A bad Kings team trading a veteran defenseman with one year remaining with a $4 million salary cap hit. The only big difference is that Muzzin was 29 (vs. Martinez at age 32) and was having a better season. The Kings received a first-round pick and two prospects (Carl Grundstrom and Sean Durzi) for Muzzin. Given Martinez’s age and somewhat down season they probably shouldn’t expect quite as much, but the framework should be similar (draft pick and a prospect).

(UPDATE: Martinez has been dealt to the Golden Knights in exchange for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.)

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils

Contract remaining: One more full season (through 2020-21) with a $4.65 million salary cap hit

Why he could be moved: The Devils have been a spectacular disappointment this season, still seem to be several pieces away from contending, and outside of their pending free agents don’t really have many realistic trade options that can bring a return. Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes are the untouchables. P.K. Subban‘s value has to be at an all-time low given his performance this season and remaining contract. Travis Zajac and Andy Greene have complete no-trade clauses, with Zajac reportedly declining a trade already this year.

Palmieri is a really good player, but turns 29 on Saturday, will be 30 when he starts his next contract, and only has a limited no-trade clause, making it easier to deal him. As good as he is, he might have more trade value to the Devils right now than he does as a player for them beyond this season. They’re probably not a playoff team next season whether he plays for them or not.

What he might cost: Very similar to the Zucker/Tatar price. Tatar and Zucker are both probably better overall players, but there is a lot to be said for Palmieri’s ability to put the puck in the net. He’s averaged a 30-goal pace per 82 games with the Devils (a lousy offensive team during his time with the team) and still has another full year remaining on his deal. A first-round pick and a good prospect seems like a must-have starting point for the Devils.

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.

Hischier replaces Palmieri as Devils’ All-Star Game rep

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Nico Hischier replaced Kyle Palmieri as the New Jersey Devils’ representative for the 2020 NHL All-Star Game. (Palmieri suffered an injury blocking a shot during the Devils’ upset win over the Lightning on Sunday.)

This marks the first All-Star Game appearance for Hischier, 21, the first pick of the 2017 NHL Draft.

There might be a temptation to throw Hischier in with the Devils’ many problems. After all, the Devils lucked into two top overall picks (with Jack Hughes being the latest from 2019), made strong trades including landing Taylor Hall, yet couldn’t get it done.

Don’t blame Hischier, though.

The Swiss-born center ranks among the Devils’ brightest spots — alongside Palmieri, honestly. The young forward brings plenty to the table while rarely taking anything away. Consider his heatmap from Hockey Viz as just one illustration of Hischier’s many strengths:

If standard offensive stats work better for you, Hischier passes those tests, unless you’re grading him too harshly based on his draft status. Hischier ranks second on the Devils in scoring (28 points in 40 games), trailing only Palmieri (31 points in 44). In case you’re wondering, Hall was at 25 points in 30 games before being traded to the Coyotes.

The Devils need more players like Hischier. If his career trajectory continues as such, we also might see more of Hischier in future All-Star Games.

The 2020 NHL All-Star Skills Competition will take place on Friday, Jan. 24 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and the 2020 NHL All-Star Game will be on Saturday, Jan. 25 (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

MORE NHL ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE:
All-Star Game rosters
NHL All-Star Game captains
All-Star Game coaches
Pass or Fail: 2020 All-Star Game jerseys
Alex Ovechkin will not play in 2020 All-Star Game

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.