TAMPA — Lightning forward Ondrej Palat, he of the newly signed five-year, $26.5 million deal, is back home in his native Czech Republic participating in his summer workout routine and eager for the start of training camp.
Seems the Lightning players are not too keen on this long offseason, made possible because they failed to qualify for the postseason for the first time in three years.
"I think guys will be rested," Palat said in a phone interview Wednesday.
And, he added, ready.
"It was an experience for us last year because we came from two good (playoff) runs and we thought we were going to make the playoffs just like that, and it didn't happen," he said. "In the NHL we have to play good from the beginning of the season, and we have to be good all season long."
Toward that end, general manager Steve Yzerman has retooled the roster this offseason, trading forward Jonathan Drouin, the third overall pick in the 2013 draft, to Montreal for top defense prospect Mikhail Sergachev, then adding forward Chris Kunitz and defenseman Dan Girardi in free agency.
Kunitz, who has won four Stanley Cups (one with Anaheim, three with Pittsburgh), and Girardi, a former Ranger, have played in a combined 283 postseason games. Kunitz, fresh off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins with the Penguins, has played in 161 of them.
"We bring in a puck-moving defenseman. He's a young one. We're going to give him a chance to play," Yzerman said of Sergachev, 19.
As for Kunitz and Girardi, Yzerman added veterans who will make the Lightning a little tougher and a little more experienced.
"I feel pretty good about the team," Palat said. "I like all the new guys. They're in the league for a while. Great veteran guys, experienced guys. That's what you need to have on your team if you want to win a Cup."
Palat's new deal includes a no-trade clause for the first four years and a partial no-trade clause for the final year. It's not as long as the deal given this month to forward Tyler Johnson (seven years), but it is worth more average money per year ($5.3 million, compared to Johnson's $5 million).
Both players were restricted free agents who filed for arbitration. Yzerman said both were interested in different contracts in negotiations than began during last season.
Palat said he was never worried about getting a deal done. He knew his agent and the Lightning would reach an agreement before the sides went to arbitration, where players can receive only one-year deals.
"I feel pretty good," Palat said. "I think both sides are happy we have a deal now. I have a clear mind now, and I can focus on playing my game and helping the team win."