Kraken, Tomas Tatar

Seattle Kraken’s Tomas Tatar Still Has A Lot To Offer

Kraken forward Tomas Tatar skipped practice on Friday simply as a “maintenance day” while resting 33-year-old hockey bones.

That’s not really news.

What is news is that Tatar might be getting a crack at playing in his 2nd Winter Olympics with his native Slovakia when the Games fire up in Italy in 2026. The NHL announced earlier this month that it’s on board for full participation. One would think Tatar would be a shoe-in, even at age 35.

“I mean …,” he paused through a humble smile and grimace, “we still have qualify, actually. So as of five days ago, there’s three groups of four teams, and the first team of each group qualifies in. So we have to do the job and then we’ll see who’s going to make the team.”

Slovakia will host their qualifying round in Bratislava in August, having to beat Austria, Hungary, and Kazakhstan. Guess what? They’ll qualify.

Tatar represented Slovakia in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, with his team finishing a distant 11th out of 12. Tatar later played on Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto with five other Slovakians, players who are no longer in the league like Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa.

Since then, Slovakian hockey has seen a strong, youthful resurgence. The best example came at the 2022 NHL Draft when three of his young countrymen were selected 1st, 2nd, and 26th overall. Forward Juraj Slafkovsky went to the Canadiens, D-man Simon Nemec to the Devils, and winger Filip Mesar also to Montreal.

“We had another two or three last year in the first round,” he pointed out. “Not top-10, but top-30. We now have a good generation to come in. Maybe if everything goes well we might have 20 or so players in the NHL. That would be a huge boost compared to the last ten years when there was a big hole between generations. I’m kind of in the middle there. It would be huge to see these guys successful in the league.”

He attributes part of the latest resurgence to the national federation allowing younger pro players in Slovakia to participate in World Championships and other major tournaments. The emphasis has turned to development.

Kraken Contributions

Tatar has shown to Kraken fans that he still has exquisite puck skills and when given the opportunity he can finish. Not surprising, considering he ended last season with 20 goals and 28 assists for New Jersey.

Leading up to this season Tatar had played for four different NHL clubs, the Detroit Red Wings, the team that drafted him in the 2nd-round in 2009, the Montreal Canadiens, briefly with the Vegas Golden Knights after a deadline trade in 2018, and then the Devils.

This season started in Colorado where he didn’t seem to fit in with the Avalanche’s forward group. The Kraken were happy to acquire him on December 15th for a 2024 5th-round draft pick. He arrived with an affordable $1.5-million single season price tag.

“He has the ability to fit in with the way we want to play in terms of pace and quickness,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said of Tatar when he joined the club.

Tatar will be a key figure in the Kraken’s push for the playoffs. If for some reason that effort goes off the rails before the March 8th NHL trade deadline, we might see the pending unrestricted free agent head out the door to a contender looking for forward depth.

Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. Tatar is a class act who brings some veteran savvy and skill to a group that can never have enough.

Earlier Kraken:

— Seattle Kraken Bury The Tired Canucks 5-2

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.