The New Jersey Devils signed winger Ondrej Palat to a five-year contract worth $6 million per season.
Palat had a declining regular season by his standards, scoring 49 points (18 G, 31 A) in 77 games. He upped his game in the playoffs, scoring 21 points in 23 games. Indeed, only two players have scored more goals in the playoffs than Palat (11). His playoff performance and experience appears to have factored into the contract he received, considering both the size and length given to the 31-year-old. It looked like the Lightning were trying everything they could to keep Palat, but their long-term signings of Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak on Wednesday effectively shut 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 a center, which isn’t a huge demotion. The Devils have a number of options in the middle of the 6 at left wing, so it’s possible Palat will be elevated to No. 1 with rising star Hughes, which could even work in his favor. It was believed the Devils were targeting Johnny Gaudreau for that spot, but Palat makes a decent consolation prize.
Signing Palat could push Yegor Sharangovich out of the front row with Hughes and Tomas Tatar out of the top 6. However, any one of Palat, Tatar or Sharangovich could move to the other wing to make the lines work.
New Jersey has used a 3 F–2 D power play at times in 2021-22, so one of Dougie Hamilton or Damon Severson could also be taken out of the first-unit power play. Severson (16 PPP) was stronger on the power play than Hamilton (7 PPP), but Hamilton has the much bigger contract. Consider that a tossup for now.
The players it helps, in order:
Players that hurt, in order: