A seemingly innocuous interview with Vegas Golden Knights free agency prize Paul Stastny actually ended up revealing quite a lot about the strange state of one of his new teammates. SinBin’s Ken Boehlke writes that Stastny, while appearing on the Golden Knight’s podcast, was asked who he believes his line mates could be this season. His answer: Alex Tuch and Erik Haula. Stastny made no mention of Vegas’ big trade deadline acquisition, Tomas Tatar, and Boehlke infers that this could mean trouble for the young forward moving forward.
If Stastny’s prediction proves true, then he, Tuch, and Haula would join the surefire top line of William Karlsson between Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith in the Knights’ top six. That would leave Tatar with a bottom-six role and Vegas is not exactly shaping up to have an offensively inclined group in that bottom half. Tatar will be joined by veteran grinders Ryan Reaves, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and William Carrier who all seem slotted for a fourth line role. That would leave Tatar with Cody Eakin and one of a number of prospects or fringe players on the third line. Among the candidates are Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, Daniel Carr, Tomas Hyka, and Curtis McKenzie. None of that group truly inspires confidence as the final piece of the line with Tatar and Eakin. This begs the question: what role does Tatar have on this team?
Even if you don’t put much stock in Stastny’s comments, there is no doubting that Tatar has been less than impressive since being traded to Vegas from the Detroit Red Wings. The three-time 45+ point scorer only registered six points in 20 games down the stretch for the Knights and was a frequent healthy scratch in the postseason, adding just two points in eight games. Tatar is a strong possession player who has proven to be a capable goal scorer in the past, but lacks the two-way game to make a living in a checking role. At $5.3MM, in addition to the trade cost of three high draft picks, it is hard to imagine that Vegas wants to play him in that role either. Tatar needs to find a fit on this roster, either on the second line with Stastny or as a transformative presence on the third line. The Golden Knights are far more shallow up front this season than they were last year and can hardly afford to deal with ineffective or inconsistent play from their biggest trade investment to date. If Tatar does struggle, he may easily wind up wearing out his welcome with the Knights as he did with the Red Wings.