I thought that this would be fun. Here are three takes that I believe in that I feel are generally not viewed as favorable by the community. Enjoy the read, and I hope your Jimmies get rustled!!
1. Tomas Tatar is a good player
I've seen a lot of comments over the past year lumping Tomas Tatar in with Andres Johnsson basically saying that he's a bad player. He's not, and he's not even close to Johnsson. Here's why.
New Jersey signed a 30 year old Tomas Tatar to a two year, 4.5 million Aav deal on August 5, 2021. What the Devils received in Tatar was a consistent, reliable player who was not particularly mistake prone. In the previous two seasons Tatar was a great possession player recording CF%'s of 59.6%, 60.7%, and 58.9% in his three years with Montreal. Through his years prior to his time with the Canadians Palat was a pretty consistent 40 point scorer, regressing to a 30 point season with Montreal just a year ago.
The 2012-22 campaign saw Tatar move up and down the lineup. What he did though was make many of the players that he played with better. When he was iced with Nico Hischier, for example, the pair posted a CF% of 53.99%. When he didnt have Tatar, Nico had a CF% of 49.96%. Their GF% was an even 50%. 10 GF, 10 GA.
He also spent a lot of time with Pavel Zacha. The pair had a 60.69% CF%. Without Tatar Zacha's CF% was 49.86%. That's a massive difference. As expected though Zacha's typical streaky scoring did not benefit Tatar. The puck kept moving in a positive direction for the Devils when the pair was on the ice but their GF% was a freezing cold 37% (10 for, 17 against), despite outshooting opponents 177-122. If while they were on the ice the Devils at the very least recorded a shooting percentage equal to what they did then the pair would have recorded five more goals for. Instead they recorded a shooting percentage of 5.65%.
Tatar put up 15 goals, 15 assists last season despite being paired with a guy who just couldn't get it going in the "results" category. I would, however, recommend that people temper what their expectations of Tatar actually are. He's a veteran who is well suited for a third line winger role. He could handle those minutes and handle that assignment aptly.
When compared to Andres Johnsson, Tatar was just a better player in every aspect except for assists. I'd also add that Johnsson's numbers were heavily front loaded with 18 points through his first 20 games, much of which was played with Jesper Bratt if I recall correctly. He recorded just 17 points through his last 51 games of the season, and scored just 4 goals from December 1 until the end of the season.
Tomas Tatar is a better player than Andres Johnsson, and when played where he belongs as a third line Left Winger he's the type of veteran that the Devils need in that role.
2. The Ondrej Palat contract isn't as bad as people make it out to be
If there is one criticism that people have of this off-season that seems to be sticking its the thought that Ondrej Palat was some kind of panic buy and his contract is unfavorable for the New Jersey Devils.
Palat signed a five year $30 million deal on July 14th. The deal contains a No Move Clause for the duration of his time with New Jersey and a Modified No Trade Clause for the last two seasons. Palat is currently 31 years old, and he will be 36 when his deal expires. The deal gives Palat a raise of $700,000 a year over his previous five year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning which saw him collect two Stanley Cup rings while also logging a third apperance in the finals.
The first thing that needs to be mentioned is that Palat was signed as a UFA. Typically UFA's have inflated contracts. It costs money to lock these guys up. I mean, the Devils paid $4.850 million AAV for five years for a 30 year old Ryane Clowe almost ten years ago. If you want to see a bad contract, well, that's the one.
On the ice Ondrej Palat has been a very, very good player. He's scored 423 points in 628 career games, or about 0.67 points per game. He's remained rather healthy throughout his career with a couple of injury hiccups here and there. He's pretty consistently played top-6 minutes ywith Tampa and has been a clutch playoff performer for the Lighning. Seemingly a pass first guy in the regular season, he's recorded 48 goals and 46 assists in 138 playoff games. In their first cup winning season of 2019-20 he even averaged an amazing 20:55 per game in the playoffs.
Palat will without a doubt fit into the Devils' top-6. The logical place for him this year in my opinion is next to Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt, however as Alexander Holtz develops I could see him being a veteran winger for Hughes and Holtz in another year.
Off the ice Palat is considered a leader in the locker room. In the post about Palat's contract that once again attempted to somehow point out what a bad job Tom Fitzgerald is going as the Devils' GM, user Way Off Sides, a Tampa fan, posted a comment. This is an excerpt from it:
The Lightning have been praised for their ability to develop young players coming into the organization. The first thing a new player sees when they are signed by the Lightning, is a 1 hour video of how to be successful. in the NHL. The entire video is a breakdown of Palat's game. The relentless effort on the defensive end. The ability to accept a hit to make a good outlet pass. The work ethic on EVERY single shift. The battle level to win pucks in the offensive zone. The selfless play to set up highly skilled players without concern for his own numbers.
He goes on to add:
His value to his teammates is unparalleled and as Ryan Callahan stated two years ago "Palat is the straw that stirs the drink"
This guy is going to be great for the Devils on and off the ice. If anything, value his on the ice play at $4 million and his off the ice contributions at $2 million. Ondrej Palat is worth $6 million for five years, and the Devils are a better team for signing him.
3. Alexander Holtz has done enough to earn a spot on the opening night roster
Alexander Holtz was the first round draft pick, #7 overall, for the Devils in 2020. He did a lot in his career even prior to being drafted. The Athletic's Corey Pronman pointed out that his 16 points as a U18 in the SHL was top-10 in the league's history and his nine goals were the third most by a player his age.
Pronman goes on to talk about his performance as a Swedish underager who had the most goals ever at that age with 30 in 38 games. Simply put: in his time in Sweden Holtz proved himself to be a solid hockey player.
Then he was drafted and came to North America for a brief 10 game stint in the AHL, and spent most of his 2021-22 campaign with the Utica Comets. He recorded 26 goals and 25 assists in 52 games, just shy of a point per game. His performance in his nine games with New Jersey might not have been nearly that good.
He responded to this by hitting the weight room this off-season and training with Daniel Broberg, the same guy who Jesper Bratt has spent the last couple of off-seasons working out with. He's coming into this season stronger and hopefully will benefit from the workouts that he got and the time that he invested in himself this off-season.
Ultimately what it comes down to is Alexander Holtz is a 20 year old winger with a great shot who has proven at every level that he can use said shot effectively. The benefit for Holtz spending another year in the AHL playing against competition that he can walk past is minimal, at best. He needs time in the NHL regardless of what he or anyone else did in their brief stints last season. The team has made the investment in Holtz, and they should do what they can to get the most out of that.
Devils fans would be short sighted to view Alexander Holtz' 9 game stint with the Devils last season as some sort of indictment of what he might be. If you hop in a DeLorean and take a trip back a few years you will find a former Devils prospect who in his first season with the team scored just 5 points in 17 games. This included recording no points through the last nine games that he played that season. That was a year that saw this player rack up 67 points in 57 games with the Albany River Rats. He had a pretty okay career for the Devils after that.
If you're still not sure who I'm talking about next time you're at the Rock take a look up in the rafters. he's the only forward with his jersey number hanging there.
My point is this, small samples are just that, small samples. Player development involves accomplishing enough at one level and moving to the next. Alexander Holtz has done that. He played well in Juniors. He played well in the SHL, the third best hockey league in the world. He played well last season in Utica. The time for Holtz to start cutting his teeth against NHL competition is now. That might mean he has a season where he puts up 15 goals and 20 assists, but again, that's not some indictment to his ability, or some proof of comparison to some guy who plays with the Boston Bruins.
Alexander Holtz is ready to take the next step in his development, and playing him in the NHL this year will benefit the Devils long term.