When the puck drops for the New York Islanders contest against the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday, forward Kyle Palmieri (IR) will not be in the starting lineup. That will mark his sixth consecutive game missed as he works his way back from a lower-body injury sustained against the Boston Bruins on Dec. 16. Despite returning to the group on Jan. 3, his absence from the lineup has become a cause for concern.
There has been limited information about exactly when Palmieri suffered the injury against Boston and what has been ailing him.
Kyle Palmieri has been a full participant in drills and does not seem limited at practice. He has not skated with the regulars on line rushes but with the extras each day.
Palmieri did not participate in the optional morning skate on Monday.
When in the lineup this season, Palmieri had struggled to provide the offensive spark the Islanders hoped for when he was signed to a four-year, $20 million deal this past offseason.
With just one goal and six assists in 25 games, as well as a minus 11, Palmieri’s play had been worrisome before the injury.
Although the Islanders need offensive production, the concern is not that Palmieri being out has hurt the offense. In his spot over the last five games, 23-year old Kieffer Bellows has two goals and three assists. One the season, Bellows has three goals and six assists in 16 games.
The concern lies long term.
In sports, money does its fair share of talking. Although Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said that playing time would need to be earned by Palmieri once he healed up, there’s no denying that his contract’s $5 million annual value allows him another chance at some point this season.
The problem for the Islanders is that if Palmieri gets his chance and still fails to perform, what’s the proper procedure?
The 30-year old forward struggled mightily during the 2020-21 regular season with the New Jersey Devils with just eight goals and nine assists in 34 games played before the Islanders went out and acquired him at the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline.
The struggles continued with the Islanders following the trade, as Palmieri notched just two goals and two assists in 17 games to end the regular season.
His 10 goals, 11 assists, and 21 points in 2020-21 was his worst offensive season since becoming an everyday NHL player back in 2013-14.
Palmieri found a scoring touch in the 2021 postseason, as he scored seven goals in the first 12 games and played a significant role in the Islanders’ advancement to the semifinals for a second-consecutive season. That earned him his contract.
But against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Palmieri failed to record a single point in the seven-game series.
The New York Islanders need consistent scoring and if Palmieri is not going to provide that, as well as not play, the Islanders are in a sticky situation.
The problem is the value for Palmieri is not there right now. Backed by the lackluster year and a half, having an injury that appears to be more severe than originally thought will make him a non-option for teams at the NHL Trade Deadline.
Even if the Islanders wanted to move Palmieri, he has a no-trade clause this year and next and a moderate no-trade clause that kicks in following the 2022-23 season.
However, suppose the Islanders could bring in a top-flight winger to play alongside Anders Lee and Mathew Barzal either at the trade deadline or this offseason. In that case, Palmieri could become a third-line player for the Islanders.
To get a player of that magnitude might mean parting ways with Bellows, who is an RFA after this season but a player that has increased his value with his offensive production this season, amongst other assets.
Zach Parise’s one-year deal expires after this season, and Palmieri could fill his role on the third line.
But none of these options come into play if Palmieri is hurt.
What appeared to be a cautious approach by the Islanders has become a longer-term issue with much uncertainty on his future.