By now, you’ve likely heard the developments of forward Tomas Tatar and his contract negotiations with the Red Wings. If you haven’t, here’s a quick tl;dr for you — the Wings have reportedly tabled Tatar a contract with a few different options ranging anywhere from one year to five years. According to Tatar, the talks have stalled out as they await salary arbitration. Tatar has said that if he gets a one-year deal through arbitration, it will very-likely be his last season in Detroit.
Obviously the Red Wings want to keep Tatar. He’s been a consistent 20-goal scorer for them over the past four years, he’s still young, and getting rid of a goal-scoring winger isn’t exactly something this anemic team has business doing. What’s alarming to me is the reaction I’ve seen from around the fanbase. Obviously Tatar has a lot of fans for what he is — a passionate hockey player who likes to have fun both on and off the ice. For whatever reason, there seems to be a growing trend of aversion towards the 26-year-old Slovak. What for? The guy has led the team in goal-scoring over the past four years, yet all I hear is that he’s inconsistent, soft, or bad defensively.
The truth is, when I get down to the brass tacks of this situation, it’s hard for me to see Tatar staying. He’d be smart to get a one-year contract through arbitration and bounce when he becomes a unrestricted free agent. He’ll get a big payday from a team who is likely in a better position to win than the current Red Wings, who are sliding down a slippery slope towards the reality of a tear-down. With that being said, if Tatar does in fact leave, I can already see him being villainized for it -- by the same folks who said they don’t care if he leaves.
I’m not going to shame fans here, but it is very frustrating to think about.
That being said, here’s what I’d do if I was Ken Holland; if you can’t get Tatar locked up on a multi-year deal, and he’s granted a one-year deal through an arbitrator, the idea of trading him should be priority number one. Since Tatar is currently recovering from shoulder surgery, it’s not going to be something they can do right away. Tatar would prove to be an extremely valuable piece for any contending team at the trade deadline next season. He’d be on an affordable, expiring contract, and I’d like to think that any team making a push for the playoffs would love to acquire a proven 20-goal scorer.
This philosophy changes if the Wings are able to sway him into a multi-year deal, but when we read between the lines, that just doesn’t seem to be a reality. Depending how Tatar bounces back from rehab, it would be easy to see him worth a 1st round pick to start. If Ken Holland does decide to trade him (he absolutely should if he ends up on a one-year deal), he needs to do his best to sell high -- meaning ask for multiple assets in a trade.
We’ll see how it all pans out as pieces fall into place, but if I was a betting man, I’d say that this upcoming season is Tatar’s last in a Winged Wheel. It’s going to be on Ken Holland to prepare for what is to come after that.