Earlier this week, Tyler Johnson signed a seven-year contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. On Friday, they locked up his longtime running buddy to a new deal as well.
Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman announced the signing of forward Ondrej Palat to a five-year contract worth a $5.3 million AAV. Palat, a restricted free agent like Johnson, now finds himself with the security of a long-term deal. As a result, the Lightning and Palat avoided arbitration, originally set for July 25.
The 26-year-old Czech Republic native is coming off a season in which he tallied 17 goals and 52 points in 75 games. His 35 assists put him in third place on the team in that category. His plus-minus rating of +8 was also third on the Bolts. In addition, he finished fourth on the team in points and his average ice time of 19:07 was the second highest on the team among forwards.
Although long considered the most underappreciated member of the Triplets line, Palat has been no less important. He’s not a dynamic scorer like Nikita Kucherov, nor does he play center like Johnson. However, Palat’s two-way play is tremendous and often overlooked across the league. Palat has surpassed 20 goals only once, in his rookie season of 2013-14 when he was a Calder Trophy finalist. The only time he failed to produce more than 50 points was the 2014-15 season when he missed 22 games due to injury. Palat has also delivered during the playoffs, contributing 14 goals and 29 points in 46 postseason games.
He’s not getting the same term that Johnson got, but the contract is not a cumbersome length. Especially for a skilled, dependable two-way winger who will turn 31 when the deal ends. Per capfriendly.com, the Lightning now hold just over $3.25 million in salary cap space heading into next season.