The Tampa Bay Lightning may have fallen just short in their attempt to win a third straight Stanley Cup, but that hasn’t stopped them from doubling down on some of the players that got them there, and they started earlier this week with a seven-year extension for playoff hero Nick Paul. While defenseman Ryan McDonagh could be on the move, it seems as though that move would be motivated by the team’s desire to keep another important playoff performer: Ondrej Palat. Palat is one of the Lightning’s ultimate success stories, a seventh-rounder who developed to the point of being among coach Jon Cooper’s most trusted players. Palat is a pending unrestricted free agent, and GM Julien Brisebois has already made public his desire to sign Palat to an extension.
Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Joe Smith took a look (subscription link) at what a potential Palat extension could look like, and concluded that another team could very well offer Palat a long-term contract worth more than $5MM per year. But, according to Smith, even in the face of those offers “the Lightning are absolutely going to try to keep Palat.” The decision on whether he remains in Tampa “will likely rest in [Palat’s] hands” as he’ll have to decide if he’s willing to take a potentially lower offer in order to remain with the only franchise he’s ever known.
Now, for some other notes regarding teams in the Atlantic Division:
- The Senators want to improve their team for next season, with the goal of potentially competing for a playoff spot in 2022-23. That much is no secret, and Ottawa indicated that would be their team’s direction earlier this year, when they traded a mid-round draft pick in order to acquire a veteran defenseman in Travis Hamonic. But while we know they want to improve their team, what we don’t know is exactly how they’ll go about doing so. According to Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia, the Senators are looking to add a “high-end winger” and a “top-four defenseman” as their main priorities for this offseason. Luckily for the Senators, there are high-end wingers and top-four defensemen on the market this summer, although acquiring them through free agency could prove to be a challenge as Ottawa has not traditionally been among the most desirable markets for free agents. The Senators have been dangling the seventh-overall pick in trade talks, though, so perhaps that pick holds the key to the Senators acquiring the players they desire.
- Perhaps the single greatest factor the Senators have going in their favor as they seek to improve their team is their advantageous cap position. In a league where most teams are walking a salary cap tightrope, the Senators have over $20MM in projected cap space. Per Garrioch, they’d like to grow that number, and one avenue they’re considering is a move for goaltender Matt Murray. Murray is making $6.25MM against the cap for the next two seasons and the Senators already have found their number-one goalie for that time frame in Anton Forsberg. Garrioch reports that the Senators have talked about “packaging” Murray’s contract with the seventh-overall pick in order to clear his cap hit off their books. While Garrioch does note that such a scenario would need to bring the Senators a “strong return” in exchange, one does have to wonder if the cap relief trading Murray would provide could be considered part of a satisfactory “strong return.”