The Colorado Avalanche have just signed one of the best remaining free agents on the market.
In their search of adding more top-nine forwards, they landed Tomáš Tatar to a one-year deal worth a $1.5 million cap hit which comes exclusively in base salary, and does not have any form of trade protection.
It’s surprising to see a player of Tatar’s caliber wait for nearly two-and-a-half months to sign a contract and at such a cheap cap hit. He has been one of the most consistent regular season goal scorers, crossing the 20-goal plateau several times in his career. He previously led the Montreal Canadiens in points, with 61 in 68 games in 2019-20, a 74-point pace. He’s coming off a solid season, with 20 goals and 48 points in 2022-23 with the New Jersey Devils.
The signing comes after he made a surprise appearance at the Avalanche’s morning skate on the day of the signing.
Tatar is Still One of the Most Consistent Top Nine Scorers
Tatar has spent the last two seasons with New Jersey, where he posted 35 goals and 43 assists for 78 points in 158 regular season games. He primarily played on the team’s second line, centered by Devils captain Nico Hischier, and also has scored at least 15 goals in every full season he played.
He is a shoot-first player, and has a nose for the net. He goes to the right places at the right times, and cleans up the rebounds. Even though he’s 5′ 10″, he doesn’t let his size deter him from getting involved right near the crease. He is also good off the rush, and holds his own defensively. His defensive metrics can be attributed to playing next to Hischier, though he won’t have a center that is as good as Hischier defensively in Colorado.
One big question is about his lack of playoff success. That was on display when he only scored one goal, that coming in Game 7 against the New York Rangers in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and is currently sitting on seven goals and six assists in 52 career playoff games. Twice, the team Tatar was on has left him a frequent healthy scratch on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, opting to do that rather than he can suddenly find a scoring touch in the playoffs.
However, he has a strong chance at giving the Avs insurance on his cap hit, and his $1.5 million cap hit minimizes the downside risk of the investment should he once again underperform in the playoffs. Though he joins an impressive mix of scoring wingers, and he should have no problem fitting in with the Avs. Beyond the size and grit, the focus of their front office was to make sure they weren’t a top-heavy team offensively. They have accomplished exactly that with this signing, having become a deeper and quicker team. The hope is that he figures it out in the playoffs.
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