Palat is cash for Lightning, might money in as free agent

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TAMPA, Fla. — If that is Ondrej Palat’s ultimate playoff run with the Tampa Bay Lightning, he’s actually making it depend.

Quickly he may very well be counting within the tens of tens of millions of {dollars} on a brand new contract.

A pending free agent with a knack for scoring large targets to go together with elite defensive prowess, Palat scored one other large aim Friday night time to maintain the two-time defending champion Lightning alive within the Stanley Cup Last in opposition to the Colorado Avalanche. He leads the NHL with eight game-winning targets sine the beginning of the 2020 playoffs.

“He’s a particular child and a particular participant,” coach Jon Cooper mentioned. “He’s an important complement to talent gamers, to checkers — wherever you want him. He simply does his job, and he will get rewarded for it due to his effort. And everyone in that room is aware of how a lot Palat has delivered to this group.”

Cooper mainly wrote the gross sales pitch to the remainder of the league on behalf of Palat, the 31-year-old Czech winger who may very well be newest Lightning participant to get squeezed by the wage cap and hit the open market.

Even at his age, Palat figures to get a increase from his present $5.3 million cap hit as a result of he delivers at vital moments identical to any contender would need out of a free agent.

“He’s not scared to step up in large moments,” mentioned linemate Nick Paul, a commerce deadline pickup by the Lightning who additionally might strike it wealthy in free company. “He’s proven that point and time once more. Whenever you’ve received a staff and also you’ve received lots of people prepared to face up and take the chance, it’s big.”

Palat values the chance in entrance of him extra within the current than what he faces this summer time. One choice is re-signing with the Lightning.

“It’s in my head,” Palat mentioned earlier than the sequence started. “However I’m simply targeted on the ultimate, after which there’s a time for the following step.”

The Lightning took the step from also-ran to title contender a few years in the past with Palat as a part of their core. He was a part of the famed “Triplets” line with Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson when Tampa Bay reached the Cup ultimate in 2015 and has been a distinguished a part of the staff’s success via six journeys to the Japanese Convention ultimate and two championships up to now.

Cooper, the one skilled coach Palat has had in North America, doesn’t assume the twice-undrafted, virtually Mr. Irrelevant seventh-round choose will get sufficient credit score for what he brings.

“He’s at all times the third man talked about on this line,” Cooper mentioned of Palat taking part in with Brayden Level and Kucherov. “However when you ask the opposite two gamers on his line, they’d speak about him possibly essentially the most.”

That’s true as a result of Palat is commonly the one who will get the puck again for expert linemates and clears the way in which for them to skate to the online. Paul praised him for what he delivers off the ice, and Kucherov is aware of effectively every little thing Palat delivers this time of yr.

“It looks as if he likes these big-time moments and he performs extraordinarily effectively underneath strain,” Kucherov mentioned. “You see it in previous playoffs and these playoffs, so very completely happy to have him as a teammate, that’s for positive.”

Even when it’s not for for much longer, the Lightning are glad to have the participant captain Steven Stamkos known as “Sneaky P” contributing to a different long term.

“He’s a gamer,” three-time champion Patrick Maroon mentioned. “He finds a approach each single night time. He performs the suitable approach, he performs arduous, he will get into the soiled areas and he will get rewarded. Whenever you try this, you’re going to get rewarded while you work arduous for 200 toes and each inch of the sport. He’s a participant.”

Observe AP Hockey Author Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno

Extra AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports



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