Tatar Celebration Hamilton Siegenthaler

Tomas Tatar never really wanted to leave the New Jersey Devils after the 2022-23 season but the chips fell where they did and he was on to a new team at the start of last season. So when Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald came calling late last week as free agency entered its third day, it was a no-brainer. Tatar was back to a place he called home.

The 33-year-old was excited to rejoin a team where he feels comfortable and with which he has familiarity. But while the core of the team is the same and most faces will be familiar, he's also aware that he's joining a team that will have a different feel than the first time around.

It's a team that is older and wiser after going through a difficult season last year and with the changes Fitzgerald made this off-season, it only makes his return that much sweeter.  

"The off-season was very successful," Tatar said of watching Fitzgerald work from afar. " When I look at (the team) on paper, it looks very scary."

Tatar speaks with the media after re-joining the New Jersey Devils

What will be new in Tatar's return is the incoming of more veteran presence in Jacob Markstrom, Brett Pesce, Brendan Dillon and Stefan Noesen, who have all been through the grind of playoff hockey before.

"From my perspective, playing these players they were very tough," Tatar shared, "And so it was a very successful off-season, I think we became a stronger team."

But becoming stronger isn't just about adding new players, it's about the experience of those younger players Tatar first met in his first stint with the Devils. What they went through together for two year and the single year where Tatar was away, means Tatar is coming back to an older and wiser New Jersey Devils club.

"When I first signed with the Devils it was a young team, but even these players they got a lot of experience now," he said, "We went to the playoffs, we played playoff hockey and those guys have become superstars in the league. Even a younger group, all of a sudden have a lot of experience. The additions, what we add through the off-season are all guys who have experience of playoff hockey. And that's the full package."

"The expectations are high. We have to show it. I believe everyone is very excited to start the season."