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NHL Free Agency 2017: Sharks should monitor Tomas Tatar situation

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The restricted free agent may not be long for Detroit, and Doug Wilson should swoop in.

Detroit Red Wings v San Jose Sharks Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar filed for salary arbitration with the club last week, and the Slovakian winger may not wear the winged wheel for much longer. Tatar told a Slovakian outlet that he has not made much headway in negotiations with the Original Six franchise, and will likely leave the club next summer as an unrestricted free agent if he agrees to a one-year-deal, according to a translation from Kukla’s Korner:

"Detroit offered me a contract, and even with a few options--for a year, or four or five. We're still talking about the length, and of course, the financial amount of the contract. However, we aren't going anywhere, and there's been time enough," Tatar told CAS, who may be headed to an arbitration court.

"Arbitration is the last option, I have to sign off, it's just a mandatory contract. Unless I agree with Detroit, I'll go to the court, where they'll give me a year's contract. That would probably be my last season in Detroit. We'll see in a few days or weeks before it all comes together," said Tatar.

Tatar is reportedly seeking a multi-year deal worth $5 million per year, according to the Detroit Free Press’ Helene St. James. The 26-year-old has scored 19, 29, 21, and 25 goals in his first four full NHL seasons, and such a contract would put him right in line with the five-year extension Florida Panthers winger Reilly Smith signed last summer. When comparing the two players’ metrics (courtesy of Own the Puck), Tatar would be well worth such a contract.

The San Jose Sharks lost a 20-goal-scorer of their own this summer, when franchise legend Patrick Marleau signed a three-year deal with a different Original Six team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Sharks are smartly looking at internal options to fill the void, but they’d still need a lot to go their way in order to exceed Marleau’s production. That’s especially true if the team has aspirations of advancing farther than they did last season.

Tatar would alleviate a lot of those concerns. He’s been a reliable 20-goal-scorer and a strong possession player throughout his career. San Jose’s forwards would look a lot more formidable with Tatar in tow, especially when considering the expected improvements from young players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

Acquiring the Slovakian forward would also not inhibit San Jose’s future salary cap flexibility, as the expiring contracts of Jannik Hansen and Joel Ward could conceivably cushion Tatar’s arrival, as long as young players such as Danny O’Regan are ready for a full-time role when the 2018-19 season begins. A deal for Tatar, however, could limit their flexibility in the draft.

Our friends over at Winging it in Motown pegged the starting price for a Tatar deal as a first round pick, with the hope that Holland is able to pick up multiple assets in exchange. Any deal involving Labanc or Meier should be a non-starter, but the Sharks probably won’t have to give up that much if Tatar signs a one-year arbitration award, as he could walk away for nothing as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

The Sharks also need to consider Tatar’s rehab, as he’s currently recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. The initial timeline from his April surgery indicated Tatar would be ready to return four-to-six months after, which would make a trade less likely until he’s healthy.

Tomas Tatar is a good player, and one that would immediately improve the Sharks’ forward corps. As a winger, he likely won’t be as expensive, in salary or in a trade, as a center like Matt Duchene. He may not immediately vault San Jose into Stanley Cup contention, but the 26-year-old is young enough to fit alongside the team’s emerging prospects, and seasoned enough to help lead them into the post-Thornton era.

As a result, San Jose General Manager Doug Wilson should keep a close eye on Tatar’s eventual arbitration proceedings, and be ready to make a move if Detroit’s negotiations with the Slovakian winger remain stalled.