While the New Jersey Devils missed out on the top prize in NHL free agency, they landed a two-time Stanley Cup winner with a track record of playoff success.
The Devils have agreed to terms with left winger Ondrej Palat on a $30 million, five-year contract, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal had not been announced.
Palat had 52 points in 71 games during Tampa Bay's three consecutive trips to the Cup Final. He finished sixth in Conn Smythe Trophy voting as playoff MVP this year.
Tampa Bay attempted to keep the 31-year-old from Czechia and defenseman Jan Rutta, who signed with Pittsburgh, but couldn't make the salary cap numbers work. Instead, general manager Julien BriseBois turned to locking up defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak and center Anthony Cirelli to eight-year extensions through 2031.
The Devils landed Palat after losing the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaudreau signed a $68.25 million, eight-year contract with Columbus after deciding to leave Calgary. His decision came after an initial frenzy of signings, including the Washington Capitals getting Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper and Claude Giroux leaving Florida for Ottawa.
In a year the salary cap going up just $1 million — the first increase in three years — several big names remained unsigned early Thursday. They include center Nazem Kadri and defenseman John Klingberg, considered the best free agents available.
The reigning champion Colorado Avalanche have said they would like to bring back Kadri, who helped them win it all. The Dallas Stars all but ruled out keeping Klingberg, who could still sign one of the biggest contracts of the offseason.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports