The New Jersey Devils have signed winger Ondrej Palat to a five-year contract worth $6 million per season.
Palat had a down regular season by his standards, scoring 49 points (18 G, 31 A) in 77 games. He elevated his game in the playoffs, scoring 21 points in 23 games. In fact, only two players scored more goals during the playoffs than Palat (11). His playoff performance and experience appear to have factored into the contract he received, given both the size and term handed out to the 31-year-old. It looked like the Lightning were trying everything possible to keep Palat, but their long-term signings of Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak on Wednesday effectively closed the door on Palat.
Palat's linemates varied somewhat in Tampa Bay, but he was often used on a line with at least one of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, or Steven Stamkos. He should line up with either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier as his center, which doesn't represent a huge downgrade. The Devils have a number of middle-6 options at left wing, so it's possible Palat is elevated to the top line with rising star Hughes, which could even work out in his favor. The Devils were believed to be targeting Johnny Gaudreau for that spot, but Palat makes a decent consolation prize.
The Palat signing could push Yegor Sharangovich off the top line with Hughes and Tomas Tatar out of the top 6. However, any of Palat, Tatar, or Sharangovich could switch to the other wing to make the lines work.
New Jersey sometimes used a 3 F – 2 D power play in 2021-22, so one of Dougie Hamilton or Damon Severson could also be moved off the first-unit power play. Severson (16 PPP) was stronger on the power play than Hamilton (7 PPP), but Hamilton has the much larger contract. Consider it a tossup for now.