Tomas Tatar has been on a long road with the Montreal Canadiens. After he was traded from the Detroit Red Wings to the Vegas Golden Knights on Feb. 26, 2018 for three draft picks, his career went downhill. He put up six points in 20 games as a Golden Knight and then became part of the trade package for Max Pacioretty.
As the years have passed, his value has declined. Yet, a team like the Nashville Predators could use a player like Tatar to supplant the previously moved Viktor Arvidsson at a relatively low cost. After paying their supposed number one center Ryan Johansen $8 million and then splurging on another free agent center in Matt Duchene, it’s about time that general manager David Poile finds a skilled player with diminished value on the open market.
Tatar’s Statistics, Analytics, and Usage
The main storyline with Tatar is his lack of playing time, especially in the playoffs. He has barely seen ice time during Montreal’s miracle run, which signifies that there may be conflicts between him and the Montreal coaching staff or front office. He may not be in their future plans and could hit the market with a discounted price tag this summer.
Tatar’s stats suggest he should be getting ample playing time instead of (one second short of) the 15:00 of ice he received during the regular season and only five games in the playoffs. He scored 30 points in 50 games this season, which would rank third on the Predators. His points per 60 minutes would be second on the team among players with at least 200 minutes of ice time. Over his career, he has only been a 60-point scorer once, in 2019-20, when he scored 61 points in 68 games. Nashville’s forward core should take anything they can get at this point.
Tatar’s analytics are excellent, and some of the best on the Canadiens. Per Evolving-Hockey, he had the fifth-highest goals above replacement (GAR), and in their expected goals above replacement (xGAR) model, he ranked fourth among all skaters. He also played both excellent offense and above-average defense, which is about all you can ask for if you’re Poile and Predators head coach John Hynes. His Regularized Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) chart shows the same things.
He can drive the play better than most players, and his offensive analytics would be some of, if not the best on the Predators. Of course, the teams play a different system, but if Tatar can play with linemates like Filip Forsberg and Duchene – if he isn’t exposed and chosen by the Seattle Kraken – it would make the team slightly more threatening and boost each player’s numbers.
Tatar’s Future Contract And Potential Problems
The lack of faith in the Slovak forward from the Canadiens coaching will help other teams in their pursuit of his services this offseason. As far as contract projections go, Evolving-Hockey and CapFriendly have his next deal at roughly three years for $5.236 million. At 30 years old, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him take around $5.5 million and shorter-term, which would also benefit his pursuers. No one will have to commit long-term, and he can still provide an excellent scoring touch on the top line of a team that needs it.
One con surrounding Tatar is his playoff performances. In his last 15 playoff games, he’s notched a measly three points. If the Predators are expected to be a bubble playoff team consistently, he needs to be better. He’s also not a very physical presence, which doesn’t play into the style the front office wants to play. It’s probably best not to acquire someone who doesn’t fit a particular vision.
However, there aren’t many cons to acquiring a player like Tatar, even if every option needs to be appropriately weighed. One tiny misstep, whether it be the contract term, value, or even who is being picked up, can lead to catastrophic problems.
Tatar for the Right Price
The Predators shouldn’t do a ton this offseason if anything at all. I would love to see younger players like Philip Tomasino come up and earn a roster spot. However, I wouldn’t be against picking up a talented and skilled winger like Tatar if the price was right, as in his projected contract. He has the experience to help the young guys coming up, and he could easily develop chemistry with a few players on the roster already. Mikael Granlund comes to mind immediately.
With a discounted contract and the Arvidsson-sized hole to fill, Tatar is worth looking into. At the very least, I hope the front office speaks with his camp when free agency rolls around. Even if the price is too steep, it would be a good sign that management is being proactive and considering all available options. Skilled wingers who can score consistently and finish at a relatively high rate are what the Predators need. It would be a nice change to have No. 90 flying up the wing in gold and creating tons of opportunities that they couldn’t generate before he got there.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros, and playing hockey for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his twitter, @jjmid04.