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Taub: Kyle Palmieri will be judged by how he performs in the playoffs

Lou Lamoriello had one objective at trade deadline last month: get his team better for the playoffs. After all, wasn’t that the main goal? Take away the dynamic of captain Anders Lee being sidelined till next season; the Islanders have Stanley Cup aspirations. So you can’t blame the Isles g.m. for doing what he did in acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac for very little outside the first round pick.

Lamoriello sees the bigger picture. There’s no doubt the fanbase sees it too. A majority of them were very happy with the move, as it signaled a “championship or bust” mentality. And Palmieri was the piece to bring it all together, maybe just as J.G. Pageau did when Lou traded for him last season.

What they bring to our team is obvious,” Lamoriello said when he made the trade. “I am excited to have them be a part of our organization right now. I know what they bring on the ice, I also know who they are as people and how well they’ll fit in the locker room here. Chemistry is extremely important to me, but their experience, their talents and competitiveness, especially in this division, knowing what they have to go through is exciting.”

Now it’s true, Palmieri has yet to find his groove as an Islander yet; he has just three points in 14 games since joining the team. Yes, Barry Trotz and his staff have tried him everywhere on top-9 except on the first line next to Mathew Barzal. And yes, the move can be considered a dud right now. But remember that word: playoffs. They’re a completely different season and mental grind. Palmieri, will be looked in a different light with how he performs when those games begin.

Palmieri has been in the playoffs before too with both the Ducks and Devils. With Anaheim he was on a club in the same situation the Isles are in now — competing for a Cup. His numbers don’t jump off the page — 15 points in 38 games — but he knows what it takes to go far; the Ducks squad he was a part of in 2014-15 lost in the seventh game of the Conference finals.

The Islanders have a chance to do something special and obviously they felt Palmieri could be a big part of it, otherwise they wouldn’t have dealt for him. It’s on him to show it. There have been flashes too but nothing sustaining.

Playoffs provide a fresh start for everybody though, and Palmieri is no different. How he plays in the postseason will determine whether a team will want to award him a nice new contract in the summer. Palmieri is a UFA and is still in the prime of his career.

We can speculate all day long that maybe the 30-year-old might still be dealing with all the outside aspects of getting traded and that’s why he hasn’t produced at the rate many have expected. But Palmieri will get another chance — like some don’t — to have a second act. The fact it will be in the playoffs raises the stakes.

“Production-wise they haven’t done it. Let’s be honest they haven’t quite done it,” Trotz said about Zajac and Palmieri this morning. “They’re playing fine. It’s just there’s no production. That will come. I’m hoping that comes when we need them most and that’s obviously playoffs.”

And who knows, maybe these last three games (two against his old squad) the light switch turns on for Palmieri. From reports this morning, it looks like he was finally going to get his shot on the first line with Barzal and Zajac. In the short term, it sounds great. In the long-term, it’s irrelevant.

What will matter most to the team, fans, maybe the brass — depending on whether they have thoughts of bringing him back — is what Palmieri does when the puck drops for game one next week.

That’s what he’ll be judged on.



Follow me on Twitter at @RTaub_




About Rob Taub

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