Ondrej Palat Provides New Jersey Devils with Desired Experience

Ondrej Palat (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Ondrej Palat (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

While the New Jersey Devils couldn’t make it work with UFA Johnny “Hockey” Gaudreau, who signed a massive contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, they were able to bring in one of the top remaining free agents in forward Ondrej Palat.

Palat is coming off his third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Tampa Bay Lightning and his fourth since 2015 with the team.

While the naysayers will be quick to point out that paying $6 million per year for the next 5 years on a player who hasn’t scored more than 20 goals in the last decade, Ondrej Palat is one of the greatest playoff performers in NHL history.

‘Jersey is the youngest team in the league, as in the 2021-22 season the average age on the roster was just 25.2 years old, and they are booming with talent and potential.

Despite the overpay, Palat provides the Devils with much-needed experience.

Unfortunately, while having a young and promising roster is great, you need to have veteran leadership to guide the young guns on the roster. A two-time Stanley Cup Champion isn’t the worst place to start.

Since being drafted in the 7th Round of the 2011 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ondrej Palat has put together 143 goals and 280 assists for 423 points in 628 games. In the postseason, the Czech forward has tallied 48 goals and 46 assists in 138 games with a +35 rating.

Standing 6’0″ – 195 lbs., Palat fits the mold of a Devils forward who possesses top-six skills with an above-average defensive presence on the ice. At 31 years old, he still plays at a high level with few signs of slowing down and could easily play well into his 30s barring he remains healthy.

As mentioned before, having such a young team, as the Devils do, it’s crucial to bring in veteran leadership and experience to help guide the next generation.

In this past year, the only veterans on the roster that held a role of significance were defensemen Dougie Hamilton and P.K. Subban. Outside of these two was a team comprised of guys getting their feet wet in the league.

Bringing in Palat is a move that can help transcend this team into playoff contenders. The New Jersey Devils are on the rise at such a perfect time given the state of the Metropolitan Division.

The Washington Capitals’ and Pittsburgh Penguins’ reign of terror is coming to an end while the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers are average at best.

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The only threats to ‘Jersey are Carolina, who is going all-in on a Stanley Cup in 2023, and the New York Rangers. It’s time for the Devils to take a leap, and this move helps in doing so.