The Lightning locked up another one of its top young players Monday, re-signing standout rookie wing Ondrej Palat to a three-year, $10 million deal.
Palat, 23, who could have been a restricted free agent July 1, is a Calder Trophy finalist for rookie of the year along with teammate Tyler Johnson. Palat received the same contract that Johnson, his good friend and linemate, got last month: $2.8 million in 2014-15, $3.2 million in 2015-16 and $4 million in 2016-17.
"We were almost living together, playing together, and now we have the same contract," Palat said from his native Czech Republic. "It's awesome. I was happy about his deal, and I'm sure he's happy about mine."
Palat had 23 goals and 59 points this season, ranking second among NHL rookies in points. He said his game took another step in November and December, when he was moved up to the first line with Johnson and Marty St. Louis after Steven Stamkos broke his right tibia.
"I started playing with Marty, and he told me, 'Don't be afraid to make the plays.' So I started to play like I did in the minors," Palat said. "I think confidence for me is the biggest thing."
Palat said he's feeling much better after taking a few weeks off since the season ended when the Lightning was swept by the Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. He suffered an upper-body injury late in the regular season on a hit by Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson. Palat left Game 1 against the Canadiens but came back for Game 3.
Palat said he didn't have a concussion, but he had headaches, and lights and loud noises gave him issues for a week. Agent Craig Oster said Palat had more of a soft-tissue neck/whiplash injury.
The injury is why Palat didn't play for the Czech Republic last month in the world championship in Belarus, but he said he is 100 percent now.
"I'm ready to go," he said.