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Penguins showing interest in free agent Tomas Tatar

Can the Pens fit another addition?

NHL: APR 04 Penguins at Devils Photo by Andrew Mordzynski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Immediately in the wake of the Erik Karlsson trade, Elliotte Friedman said on Sportsnet last weekend that the Penguins were targeting free agent forward Tomas Tatar.

Later on, Kyle Dubas mentioned in his press conference that the team might seek further options to replenish depth after trading away several roster players in the move that brought Karlsson to Pittsburgh.

Recently, in a move that brings back fond memories of and translations of often frank interviews by Europeans in their native tongue, a Slovakian outlet published an interview with Tatar.

Granted, there has to be some account for “lost in (google) translation” but Tatar did confirm that he has had talks with the Penguins.

Since the beginning of the free market, several clubs have shown interest in him.

“It’s been more teams since the beginning. There were many interested parties, which reassured me. The problem was more in the agreement. Whether it was about the length of the contract or the amount, we always fought with someone. In the last few days, I put some things aside and tried to look at the teams where I would feel the best and it would make the most sense. Maybe that’s why it moved in the right direction.”

From the beginning of the negotiations, his demand for the length of the contract was a problem. “I wanted at least two years again. Even if something didn’t work the first year, it could then start to get better in the second year, just like it did with the Devils. If I had left there after the first year, I would have been disappointed, but I stayed a year longer and today I say with a smile that the Devils as an organization are definitely among the good ones.

I gained great leadership experience there and I will remember it fondly. That’s why I’m trying to be very careful and today it’s headed for a one-year contract because of the salary cap space.”

So is his return to the New Jersey Devils out of the question? “It’s not even that, but I’m not talking to them at the moment.”

There has been speculation overseas about the interest of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who made a bigger trade a few days ago in which they acquired star defenseman Erik Karlsson and made room in the salary cap. So we asked Tatar if it would be nice for him to play in a team with Karlsson, Crosby, Malkin...

“It was, but I don’t want to develop it further. I want to keep it to myself. I said a couple of times who I was communicating with and it always went the other way. There are more teams there and I hope we will move somewhere,” said Tatar with a big smile.

Will we see Tomas Tatar again in NJ Devils or in Pittsburgh?

At the end of the debate on the new contract, he added that his goal is to choose the team with which he will win the Stanley Cup.

“I’m trying to pick a team that I think will have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. It’s hard to say, the line between success and failure in the NHL is very thin. This is proven by the Devils season, where we were slowly the worst team for a while and finally made it to the playoffs and eliminated the Rangers. I try to deduce it, for example, from looking at the lineup and where my role could be, so that I can help the team succeed.”

So there you have it. Contract term sounds like a big deal, with Tatar preferring a multi-year contract, but also acknowledging that due to the salary cap that he might have to resort to accepting a one-year contract.

Tatar was coy about the Pens, though it’s clear his side has been in talks with them, among multiple other NHL teams.

There would be some conflict in the Pittsburgh side of things - they’re already just about capped out. Any team surely could use a quality middle-six winger like Tatar - who scored 20 goals and 48 points for the Devils last season.

Based on on-ice fit alone, Tatar would be ideal for the Pens. For them to make the money work, Tatar would have to accept a limited salary, which would then potentially push a player penciled into the roster like Alex Nylander or Drew O’Connor out of the NHL team for the start of the season.

Usually where there is a will, there is a way when the money is close. Dubas found a way to land a huge ticket in Karlsson’s contract, if he was determined to find a way to make it work then there would be some sort of path to make it happen. Players in Tatar’s position don’t typically accept less money to go somewhere, but some of his stated priorities (playing on a good team, contract term of longer than a year) are presumably aspects that Pittsburgh could offer, if they’re willing to do so.

That said, the Pens are far from the only option for Tatar. It remains to be seen if another contender like New Jersey, Colorado, Seattle or Carolina or even someone else could find a way to scrape up a small amount of money to get in the picture for themselves. If any of those teams is willing to make an offer beyond one season or considered better chances for a championship by Tatar, they become that much more attractive.

For now, it doesn’t look like Tatar or any NHL team is in a rush to find a way to fit him in for next season. With training camp still weeks away, there is the luxury of time to talk and consider the possibilities, which seems like where all parties are at the moment.