Clutch Ondrej Palat Is Possible Cap Casualty For Lightning

    • The 31-year-old winger holds the franchise record with 10 career postseason game-winning goals.
    • He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer when his five-year, $26.5 million deal ($5.3M AAV) expires.

The Lightning are vying for a third straight Stanley Cup with the same core group of stars, and the limelight usually avoids veteran Ondrej Palat — until he comes up big.

On Sunday, the 31-year-old winger scored his 10th career postseason game-winning goal with 42 seconds left to seal Tampa’s 3-2 victory over the Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, cutting the series deficit to 2-1. 

But despite his clutch track record, Palat could still wind up a roster casualty for a team that’s currently over next season’s cap — he’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer when his five-year, $26.5 million deal ($5.3M AAV) expires.

  • Palat is fifth among active NHLers in postseason game-winning goals, and his +147 plus-minus is tied with Victor Hedman for tops in team history.
  • Tampa is projected to be over the cap by almost $2M next season, with 23% allocated for stars Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Steven Stamkos. 
  • Palat would likely be an attractive option for a team at around $6M per season.

It won’t be an easy decision for Tampa: Palat’s sixth goal of these playoffs notched the Lightning’s ninth multi-goal postseason comeback and put them back on track to win three Stanley Cups in a row for the first time since the 1980-83 Islanders.

With Tuesday’s Game 4 at home (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Lightning (+120) have improved odds to beat the Rangers (-140) in the series, and sit at third to win it all (+500) behind Colorado (-220) and New York (+380).