The last of the big fish to fry for the Tampa Bay Lightning came out of the pan on Friday afternoon, signing a new 5-year, $26.5 million deal, as Ondrej Palat is set to be a Bolts forward for a little while longer yet. The restricted free agent was the last of the big pieces left on the team's list of things to do and that should just about finish off their summer, barring any groundbreaking deals that come out of the blue, between now and training camp.
The 26-year old Czech has emerged as a very reliable offensive option for the Lightning in recent years, gaining chemistry with the likes of Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov and they have been a formidable force. Now, all three players are locked up for the foreseeable future, they still have the likes of Steven Stamkos around for leadership, a very strong blueline and a goaltending tandem that may need a little help, but should be capable of winning their fair share of games.
Last season, Palat played in 75 games for the Lightning, scoring 17 goals and 52 points, good enough for 108th overall in scoring, 82nd among all forwards. Given how the Lightning have been able to keep a good piece of that core together this summer, there is still potential for those numbers to still grow in the 2018 campaign.
|Steven Stamkos||8.500||Victor Hedman||7.875||Andrei Vasilevskiy||3.500|
|Ryan Callahan||5.800||Anton Stralman||4.500||Peter Budaj||1.025|
|Ondrej Palat||5.300||Braydon Coburn||3.700|
|Tyler Johnson||5.000||Dan Girardi||3.000|
|Nikita Kucherov||4.767||Andrej Sustr||1.950|
|Alex Killorn||4.450||Mikhail Sergachev||0.894|
|Chris Kunitz||2.000||Slater Koekkoek||0.800|
There is quite a bit to like about the Lightning, on paper. They have a good portion of their spots filled, a very good mix of veterans and youth at every position and they are projecting to still have $2.5 million in cap space for opening night, if everything here makes it to then. I don't see Tampa being much for players for the rest of the summer, but if they are, it will be a straight across move in cap space, one would have to believe.
The addition of Dan Girardi still has to be one of the most impressive adds to this team in the off-season, especially since they are going to be giving the reins to a pretty young goalie as their number one in Andrei Vasilevskiy. Taking care of the keeper will be job number one, but a potent offense should make for a decent power play in the coming season and the Atlantic Division is ripe for the picking, especially if a team can get hot. I think the Lightning have a real shot at being a great team in 2018 and an even better team to pick from at hockey pool time.