For the first time in their existence, the Vegas Golden Knights make their way to the Motor City to battle the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
Their visit is notable for more than just the first ever matchup in Detroit. Former Red Wings forward Tomas Tatar makes his return for his first game against his old teammates since being traded to Vegas at the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for a trio of draft picks, including a first rounder. Vegas also took on all of Tatar’s $5.3 million cap hit.
He saw the news of the trade on television, coupled with a phone call at that moment from GM Ken Holland informing him of the move. Needless to say, he was surprised by the news, and didn’t exactly know what to do next as far as packing his things was concerned.
“The first hour was pretty stressful,” Tatar said Thursday morning ahead of the Golden Knights’ game against the Red Wings. “I didn’t really know what to do. It was my first time traded. Should I start packing? What should I pack and for how long?
Then when you realize what kind of team you are joining, it was fun. I was really excited.”
Of course, Tatar had heard rumors about his name being floated around in potential trades, but wasn’t really expecting it, especially after signing a four year deal with the Red Wings during the 2017 offseason. He was disappointed at having to leave the only NHL home he’s ever known, but is looking forward to playing on the upstart Golden Knights.
I’ve been here for so long (close to seven years) and I’ve been in a good relationship with Ken (Holland) and Blash (Jeff Blashill) and my teammates,” Tatar said. “Obviously, it’s tough to say goodbye to all of them, you are a little upset about it but then, like I said, just the excitement to join a new team, making new friends, joining a new organization kind of took over so I was trying to focus everything on that, to come here and be ready to play.”
“When you sign this kind of deal, you are thinking you are going to be here,” Tatar said. “But I knew we had to start playing better. Unfortunately we didn’t so something had to change. I’d heard rumors teams were interested about me. I was a little ready for it.”
After the trade, Tatar’s former teammates and coaches spoke at length of the difficulty of having to say goodbye to a friend, but acknowledged that he’d likely still be a Red Wing had they accumulated a better record and had been solidly in a playoff spot.
They’re also looking forward to their first matchup against him.
“We were together for a long time, even in Grand Rapids,” Gus Nyquist said. “Pretty much for our whole careers we’ve been together and good friends so it’ll be fun to play against him.”
Forward Dylan Larkin will also look forward to facing Tatar, and talked about his appreciation of what he brought to the Red Wings during his time in Detroit.
“It will be a little different, I’m excited to see him, I’m happy he’s doing well and in a good place,” Larkin said. “I didn’t really realize how meaningful he was in our locker room and to our team until he left. He’s a big voice and a bit of a character and I miss that, I miss his energy, he’s always happy. It will be good to see him.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Knights are happy to have him out West. Current head coach and former Red Wings player Gerard Gallant enjoys Tatar’s energy and the character he brings to the expansion franchise, who are leading their division.
“He’s played real well so far,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “He’s a power-play guy and he is going to score goals for us and that’s what we like about him. He’s got lots of energy and plays well.”
“He’s good for our dressing room and we have a lot of guys like that, so he fits into our mix real good. He’s a character guy and the guys really like him. He’s pretty loud out there, so it’s good.”
The Red Wings host the Golden Knights at 7:30 EST.