Despite a strong playoff run and a good regular season, Ondrej Palat had come to terms with the idea that he was going to leave the Tampa Bay Lightning this summer. The Czech didn't stay as a free agent for very long and he's happy to accept a new role with the New Jersey Devils.
The last few weeks have been very emotional for the 31-year-old striker. The 'Bolts' first lost in the Stanley Cup Final to the Colorado Avalanche – though Palat had 21 points in 23 games – and then learned he had to find a new home , after a decade in Florida.
“Leaving Tampa after 10 years made me sad, but I had been preparing for it all year because I knew there was a chance I had to leave. It's an industry, but now that I've signed with the Devils, I'm no longer sad,” said the left winger at a press conference on Friday.
Palat indicated that discussions had taken place between the general manager Julien BriseBois and his agent, but that no satisfactory offer had been submitted.
With the young people
In the shadow of the stars in Tampa, he will now have the opportunity to assert himself on the wing of Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier. The Devils are rebuilding and the experience of a player like Palat, who has more than 600 regular season games and another 138 in the playoffs, will be invaluable.
“I have been there. When I was younger, we had older guys with the Tampa Bay Lightning. So, I'm really excited to join this young and talented group. I think I can bring some experience,” he said, referring to the impact of Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier in his National League debut in 2012-2013.
The one who signed up for five years and $30 million in New Jersey is more of a silent leader than a loud voice in the locker room. He will speak up if necessary, but he prefers to lead by example on the ice.
A call from Elias
Patrik Elias is one of those who welcomed Palat as soon as his contract was initialed. The Devils all-time point leader had nothing but good things to say about the organization.
“He was one of the guys who called me. I know him well, I played with him at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi,” he said of his Czech compatriot.
“He told me a lot of good things about the team, that it had a bright future, that it is full of talent. He said that I will be very happy here”, concluded Palat.