The Tampa Bay Lightning re-signed Ondrej Palat to a 3-year contract extension earlier today, and that’s an incredibly smart move heading into the future.
For a team that’s struggled to build a bona-fide playoff contender following their only Stanley Cup championship in 2004, largely because of an inability to re-sign key pieces when given the opportunity, signing Palat was a clear sign GM Steve Yzerman wants to allow talented young players to continue their growth within one organization. He’s easily making that point, re-signing both Palat and fellow rookie Tyler Johnson before free agency opens July 1 to keep much of last season’s top 6 intact.
It’s not like Yzerman’s throwing money away though. Palat’s 59 points and plus-32 rating led the Lightning, while Johnson’s 24 goals broke Steven Stamkos’ rookie goal-scoring record. Johnson’s also only the second player in NHL history to record five shorthanded goals and five power play goals in the same season. That resulted in each one being named a Calder Trophy finalist, the first teammates to accomplish this feat since Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews back in 2007.
While there are no guarantees Palat and Johnson will be able to replicate their amazing first season going forward, re-signing them gives head coach Jon Cooper numerous options. They’ve proven capable of stepping up and often times producing in pressure-packed situations. When Stamkos went down in early November, these two were given the task of playing on the top line alongside former captain Martin St. Louis. They thrived in that role, but ended up with different linemates come playoff time. Johnson struggled a little there, not totally unexpected given the fact this was his first NHL postseason experience. Palat, meanwhile, had 3 points and a plus-1 rating while only participating in three games. Some could argue his absence during the final period or so of Game 1 and all of Game 2 was another bad break for the Lightning in a season full of them.
Enough about that, however. Palat’s re-signing, along with Johnson’s a few weeks ago, are moves meant to build the Lightning for success down the road. Whether it does that is a question to be answered on the ice, but for now this looks like a move worth making.
Agree? Disagree? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.