'Can't be more happy': Tatar signs four-year deal with Red Wings

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Detroit left wing Tomas Tatar led the team in goals (25) last season.

Detroit — Tomas Tatar is staying with the Red Wings.

And Friday afternoon, after re-signing in Detroit with a four-year contract worth $21.2 million, nobody was more happy or relieved.

“I can’t be more happy,” Tatar said during a conference call. “I’ve been on my phone talking to (friends) in the Detroit area and it’s just been real nice.

“I have a very special relationship with the Red Wings. I was a huge fan and it’s a really big relief for me to stay and continue my NHL career in Detroit.”

The restricted free agent’s salary cap hit is $5.3 million per season, comparable to recent RFA’s such as Ondrej Palat (Tampa) and Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal).

Tatar will earn $6 million this season, $5.5 million the next two seasons, and $4.2 million in the 2020-21 season — with a full no-trade the second year, and partial no-trade in the final two years.

Tatar and the Red Wings had a salary arbitration hearing Thursday, and the arbiter's decision was expected by Saturday.

But the two sides were able to work out an agreement on their own.

“It’s really exciting that we found a way to get the deal done,” Tatar said. “It was a little stressful. We had a great relationship with (general manager) Ken (Holland) in arbitration. (Arbitration was) not even close to as bad as people were picturing. They (the Red Wings) were real nice and we were always finding a way to sign a deal without waiting for the arbitration.

“I’m real glad we did.”

Listening to the Red Wings state their case during arbitration didn’t leave a bad taste with Tatar.

“It’s a business,” Tatar said. “You just have to listen in one ear and out the other ear. It’s a business and I can understand it.”

The Red Wings turned in a salary figure of $4.1 million for arbitration — while Tatar’s camp turned in $5.3 million (what the average salary cap hit turned out to be).

Tatar, 26, becomes another part of the team's long-term nucleus after leading the team with 25 goals last season and a team-leading total of 75 over the last three seasons.

Tatar said there’s room for improvement for himself and the entire roster after the Wings missed out on the playoffs last season.

“We need to be better, we all do,” Tatar said. “We were disappointed by this season, (and) all of us can be a little better. The NHL is so tight right now, there’s going to be lots of teams battling for the playoffs. It’s not easy and we have to get ready for it.

“New younger guys are coming, and they look pretty good. We have a new signing in (defenseman) Trevor Daley, a new acquisition, and it will help us.”

Tatar had shoulder surgery after the season and expects to be ready for the start of the regular season in October, maybe even training camp in September.

“When I’m working out or shooting pucks, I don’t feel any discomfort,” Tatar said. “We’re ahead of schedule and I will be healthy and ready for the season.”

With Tatar’s situation resolved, general manager Holland will focus on the last remaining restricted free agent, forward Andreas Athanasiou.

Not holding any leverage — Athanasiou doesn’t have the service time needed for arbitration — he and the Wings are expected to come to an agreement long before training camp begins in mid-September.

Athanasiou, 23, scored 18 goals last season in 64 games and has scored 27 goals in 101 career games.

But the Red Wings are getting tight against the salary cap. They are approximately just under $1 million under the cap — even with Johan Franzen’s long-term injured-reserve situation — but could use another injury (defenseman Ryan Sproul’s knee might not be ready to start the season) to get under the cap.