By Thomas Harrington
One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks traded Kyle Palmieri to the New Jersey Devils for a second round pick in 2015 and a third round pick in 2016. Technically, the Palmieri deal was finalized very early in the morning on June 27th, but the trade had been agreed to on June 26th. Safe to say that one year later, the Devils got the better of the Ducks in this deal. I get why Palmieri was dealt, but there is no question that he has blossomed into a goal scoring forward, the kind that could have helped Anaheim last season.
The Ducks drafted Palmieri in the first round (26th overall) in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. The New Jersey native was a product of the US National Development system and attended Notre Dame University the year after he was drafted. A strong freshman season there saw him score nine goals and 17 points. He turned pro the following season and spent most of his time in the AHL playing for Syracuse where he racked up 29 goals and 51 points in 62 games. He also made it into 10 games with the Ducks and scored his first career goal on November 3, 2010 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first NHL game. It was the only point he scored in the NHL that season. The following season saw him get a little more NHL action, as he played in 18 games and scored four goals and seven points for Anaheim. With Syracuse, he put up over a point per game as he had 58 points in 51 games.
Palmieri looked like he was ready to be a full time NHL player; there was just one problem–another NHL lockout. It shortened the 2012-2013 season to just 48 games. As a result, Palmieri started out in the AHL where he put up 25 points in 33 games. Once the lockout ended, he became a regular in the Ducks’ lineup and scored 10 goals and 21 points in 42 games, essentially a 20 goal, 40 point pace. However, Palmieri was never able to get to those numbers while in Anaheim. Over the next two seasons he scored 14 goals in 71 games and 14 goals in 57 games. While there were clear signs of progress in terms of his goal scoring, it wasn’t at the rate the Ducks were hoping for and he struggled with consistency. He also was not a big factor in the postseason. Palmieri was all over the Ducks’ lineup, sometimes playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, sometimes playing with Ryan Kesler, and sometimes he was stuck on the fourth line.
In Palmieri’s final season in Anaheim, the Ducks got scoring done by committee, as only two players broke the 50 point mark, Getzlaf and Perry. Palmieri finished with 29 points, tied for 11th on the team and his 14 goals were sixth on the team. While those were decent numbers, it looked like he wasn’t going to significantly improve while in Anaheim.
Palmieri always seemed to play at his best when the Ducks traveled back east, and Bob Murray did him a favor by trading him to New Jersey, since he grew up there. While many expected Palmieri to put up better numbers once he was given more consistent minutes in a team’s top six and top power play unit, I think few people expected Palmieri to have such a great first season in New Jersey. He absolutely exploded with the Devils and scored 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games. If he had stayed in Anaheim and put up those same numbers, he would have finished second in goals and third in points this past season. However, Palmieri played over three minutes more per game with New Jersey and in situations that would give him better opportunities to score. With Perry as the top line right wing, and after the playoff run that Jakob Silfverberg had, Palmieri just wasn’t going to get those same opportunities in Anaheim. He belongs in a team’s top six, not their bottom six, and he wasn’t going to get that chance in Anaheim.
As for the two picks that Anaheim got back in the deal, well, that’s a bit of a mixed bag. The second round pick was used in a trade the next day when Anaheim picked up Carl Hagelin. Hagelin never really fit in, but he was traded for David Perron, a deal that worked out very well for both teams. The third round pick was used to acquire Jamie McGinn from the Buffalo Sabres. He played well for the Ducks after the trade deadline and scored a couple of goals in Anaheim’s first round loss to Nashville. He’s an unrestricted free agent and it remains to be seen if he will hit the open market or re-sign in Anaheim.
Besides the two picks, the Ducks also got one other thing, a contract that they wouldn’t have to deal with this summer. The Ducks have a bevy of restricted free agents to take care of: Sami Vatanen has already been signed, but Rickard Rakell, Hampus Lindholm, and Brandon Pirri are still without a new contract. The recent trade of Frederik Andersen also helps out Anaheim’s log jam of restricted free agents. With Palmieri and Andersen both gone, it does make Anaheim’s job a little easier this summer.
Of all the trades that I’ve taken a look at since I started examining them a year after they happened, it’s safe to say this is the most lopsided one the Ducks have been in. New Jersey got a 30 goal scorer while Anaheim got two picks, one of which was used to bring in Hagelin who never fit in, and the other was used to bring a trade deadline rental. Again, no one expected Palmieri to get 30 this year, but it was a safe bet that the Ducks were trading away a 20 goal scorer. However, no move is made in a vacuum, and if this move helps Anaheim get their other restricted free agents signed, then it’s not quite as bad as it looks on the surface. Murray and the Ducks can’t win every deal, and right now, this is one that they lost. If McGinn re-signs at an affordable price and becomes an effective part of the Ducks going forward, then things won’t look so bad, but who knows if that will happen. For now, the Ducks lost the Palmieri deal.
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