The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed forward Ondrej Palat to a five year deal totaling $25.6 million. That breaks down to an average annual value of $5.3 million. The deal will keep Palat in Tampa through the 2021-2022 season. With Palat’s contract complete, the Lightning have no major moves left to make this summer.
Ondrej Palat (T.B) has settled:— Craig Morgan (@craigsmorgan) July 14, 2017
Palat has been one of the steadiest performers in TB since joining the team full time in 2013-14. His best season was the cup year when he was part of the dominant triplet line with Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov. He scored 63 points that season and has topped 50 points in three of his four NHL seasons including last year when the team struggled all year due to injury.
Palat is by all accounts a great player and a genuine top line left wing on a good NHL team. His player card from hockeyviz.com is impressive.
He scores at a first line rate at even strength and has positive impacts on both shots and goals. The team achieves better results when he is on the ice than off. His point totals are even more impressive considering that he doesn’t receive power play time the way a typical first line forward would.
He’s made a reputation in Tampa of being a reliable two way forward who plays a well-rounded game and can slot in flexibly on the left side in the top six. He’s been successful on the top line alongside dominant players like Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos. He’s also been successful driving the second line along side Tyler Johnson.
Like Johnson, Palat’s path to a long term deal like this was never guaranteed. The Lightning selected him in the 7th round of the 2011 draft. Most 7th round picks never even make the NHL let alone become a key top line player on a good team.
Palat now joins Johnson, Stamkos, Alex Killorn, and Victor Hedman (one of these things is not like the other) as players locked up long term. Palat’s deal is slightly shorter than the others but that will allow him to hit free agency with time to get one more big contract if he can stay healthy and continue on this trajectory.
Palat’s signing means that the Lightning are without any major contracts to deal with until the summer after next when Nikita Kucherov will need his long term extension. The team still has some flexibility and should have between $2.5 million to play with this year. That will give them flexibility to add players at the trade deadline that they haven’t had in the past few seasons.
Palat’s deal is a big win for the Lightning. Matt Cane’s model had his contract projected at approximately $6 million so saving 700k on market value in a long term extension is a clear win for the team. This is arguably the best of the long term extension that Steve Yzerman has secured for the team in the last two off seasons.
With this deal done, focus officially shifts to the coming season. The Lightning will return with some changes including the loss of Jonathan Drouin and some changes to the blue line. But with the top of their forward core locked up for the next two years at least, they should be well positioned to make another run at going deep in the playoffs.