New Jersey Devils welcome back Tomas Tatar, a perfect pairing for the middle six

The New Jersey Devils had very little in terms of money left to spend in NHL Free Agency, but they did find a deal that worked for them. They brought back Tomas Tatar on a one-year deal.
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils - Game Seven
New York Rangers at New Jersey Devils - Game Seven / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Last offseason, the New Jersey Devils saw a mass exodus of veterans leave the team after a historic season. Almost all of them cashed out on their success. Damon Severson got a massive eight-year deal from the Columbus Blue Jackets (which was technically signed on his last day in Jersey). Ryan Graves got the bag over five years from the Pittsburgh Penguins. Miles Wood got six years from the Colorado Avalanche. Even Yegor Sharangovich was able to cash in after the Devils traded for Tyler Toffoli.

The one player who wasn't able to cash in was Tomas Tatar. He waited and waited for his next contract to come, but it didn't end up commencing until the Avalanche signed him for one year and $1.5 million. It was a show-me deal that Tatar hoped could be flipped into a long-term deal this offseason.

It did not. Tatar's time with the Avalanche was disastrous, leading to healthy scratches by the end of his run. Coach Jared Bednar wanted Tatar to play more of a two-way role, to the point that he spent some time on the penalty kill. The Devils could have told them that's not how you use Tatar. He's not awful on defense, but he's not a penalty killer, either.

The Avalanche flipped Tatar to the Seattle Kraken, and Tatar was much better in the Pacific Northwest. He had eight goals and seven assists in 43 games with the Kraken (which, yes, was much better than his timein Colorado). It still ended up being one of the worst seasons in Tatar's career.

After such a down year, it makes sense that Tatar would want to go back to where he had success. He was one of our best possible Day 2 Free Agent fits, and now Tatar is back home in Jersey.

The Devils gave Tatar a one-year deal worth $1.8 million. It is a little more than most expected him to get, as again he's coming off a worse season than last year, but the Devils know the player and the fit.

It's interesting that the Devils are using the money they likely would have spent on Jonathan Marchessault on former Devils Tatar and Stefan Noesen. They play completely different roles, but the Devils are trying to up their effort and play style.

Tatar's contract does impact the salary cap. According to Puck Pedia, the Devils have just under $5 million left to spend. With that money, they still need to sign Dawson Mercer and Nolan Foote. This likely takes a long-term deal with Mercer off the table, but who knows?

Tatar had 20 goals and 48 points in his last season with New Jersey. He will be a very good addition to the team's middle six, with the ability to play a top-six role in a pinch. The signing itself feels right, even if the money does make some decisions uncomfortable in the future.