On my five-point offseason checklist, three of the five points were to sign a legitimate backup goalie (which they did on the first day of UFA with Jonathan Bernier) and find a way to add both a #1 D and another top four D, both of which the Devils checked off earlier this offseason with the signing of Dougie Hamilton and trade for Ryan Graves. Another part of my wishlist was a top six winger to add to our goalscoring, help our young centers produce and be a short-term patch guy until prospects like Nolan Foote and Alexander Holtz are ready to earn an NHL job.
Enter Tomas Tatar, who the Devils inked to a two-year, $9 million deal (AAV: $4.5 million per). Mission accomplished there as well for GM Tom Fitzgerald, who’s had about as good an offseason as could be hoped for to this point.
Tatar is a consistent 20-goal, 45-55 point per season player, who achieved his career high in scoring during 2019-20 with 61 points in just 68 games for Montreal. Things didn’t go as well for him this year, with just ten goals and thirty points in fifty games, and he became an afterthought during the postseason where he only dressed for five of Montreal’s twenty-two postseason contests. It’s the latter point (and the fact Tatar is already thirty years old) that makes me glad this was only a two-year deal. Still, the Canadiens’ social media goodbye Tweet at least suggests this wasn’t a personality fallout.
Considering Tatar only spent three seasons in Montreal and things clearly fell off on the ice for him there, that’s a nice little sendoff.
With Tatar in the fold to fill out a top six slot and add to the goalscoring, really the only major issue left for Fitzy is to figure out what to do with our third-line center spot and perhaps add another/better depth D on the left side. Not that filling those holes make us a Cup contender by any means, but they’ll be a big next step toward bringing us back to relevance, helping the kids already on the roster grow and bridging the cap to the next wave of prospects to come.
Also on Fitz’s to-do list is dealing with RFA’s Janne Kuokkanen and Yegor Sharangovich, the latter of whom Fitzy signed to a two year, $4 million extension today. A nice little reward for the twenty-three year old winger, who broke out with sixteen goals and thirty points in his first NHL season. Assuming Kuokkanen also signs before camp next month, the Devils will still have around $12-13 million of cap space to further supplement the roster, either before or during the season. Adding Tatar seemingly takes us out of the Vladimir Tarasenko running, though it could be for the best with his health question marks.
Also in the news today, the Devils named Kevin Dineen the head coach of their AHL affiliate, back in Utica for 2021-22. Long-time Devil fans remember Utica as Martin Brodeur’s pre-NJ training ground before the AHL affiliate moved to Albany (later Lowell, Springfield, Albany again, Binghamton and now Utica again). Maybe it’s not a coincidence we’re back in Utica now that Marty’s taken on a more active organizational role after coming back in the fold the last couple of years. Dineen takes over for previous AHL coach Mark Dennehy, who took another job in the organization as chief scout of amateur scouting.
Dineen brings a ton of experience to his new role with nearly two decades in the NHL as a player, and since then has coached in the AHL for several years, along with stints as an NHL assistant and NHL head coach (in Florida). Ironically Dineen’s only playoff series as a head coach was our first-round clash in 2012, where Adam Henrique eliminated the Panthers with a goal in double OT of Game 7. Sorry…well, not sorry Kevin lol
Would you consider a reunion with Zajac?
More than most Devils fans seemingly but it’s a moot point, cause I don’t think he’d come back here after his comments about feeling out of place on a team of 20-year olds, plus I’m pretty sure he’s signed with the Isles to one of the secret contracts Lou hasn’t filed with the league to keep his cap space under wraps 😛