This week's Eastern Edge is the fifth part of a series we started last week, looking at how players performed in new surroundings this season (and those prior editions can be viewed here). We'll discuss players that joined new teams ahead of the 2021-2022 regular season, as well as those that were traded during the campaign.
Tatar's first season in New Jersey was a disappointing one as he posted just 30 points in 76 games. To provide some perspective, he reached the same point total in 26 fewer games last season – his final year with the Montreal Canadiens. For the most part, Tatar should have fond memories of Montreal. In his first season with the Habs, the 2018-2019 campaign, Tatar managed a solid 59-point pace. He took things to another level in year two, racking up 61 points in 68 games for a 74-point pace. His third and final year in Montreal was his least productive, but he still paced for a respectable 49 points – a big step above the 32-point-pace he posted this season with the Devils.
In Montreal, Tatar was a fixture of the team's top line beside Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. The three players had fantastic chemistry together and were strong at both ends of the ice, efficiently turning defense into offense. Although Tatar saw some time beside talented players like Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt this year in New Jersey, he didn't really have consistent linemates and was primarily deployed in a depth role.
Looking ahead to next season, I think Tatar may be a good sleeper pick. A lot of people will have turned their backs on him because of this year's offensive struggles. Most will be enamoured by the young talent in New Jersey, focusing on stars like Bratt, Hischier and Jack Hughes, as well as whomever the Devils acquire with the second overall pick this year. With the youth movement in effect, most would expect Tatar to be stuck in a depth role again next season – which could very well be the case. However, if he's able to find a stable position in the lineup, he should have an opportunity to develop chemistry with some talented players in New Jersey. In my opinion, an improvement in his fantasy stock would depend on more favourable deployment. I don't think he needs to be skating beside Jack Hughes or seeing top line minutes in order to be productive, but a more stable situation could make a big difference. Whether that happens or no, Tatar is a low-risk, high-reward pick because he'll go late in most drafts, and undrafted in many others. He's 31 years old, so I wouldn't classify this year's struggles as age-related decline, which would be harder to overcome next season.
A final thing to consider is Tatar's contract, which expires at the end of next season. If the Devils fall out of the playoff picture, they could give Tatar lots of ice time bes