Doug Armstrong held a press conference this morning where he discussed losing Vince Dunn in the expansion draft (wishes him luck), the status of Robert Bortuzzo and Justin Faulk (good to go), and what the team will do if they lose Jaden Schwartz in free agency (move Schenn to the left).
To be honest, the only thing that anyone followed along for were his comments on Vladimir Tarasenko’s future:
Armstrong is not going to come out and say “well, the market is poor for a goal scorer who hasn’t been scoring thanks to three shoulder surgeries.” Based on a few things that he said, it’s easy to glean that’s what the deal is. This comment is particularly telling:
Army says Tarasenko has to prepare like he's returning to the Blues. #stlblues— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 22, 2021
Armstrong’s right. There’s no guarantee that Tarasenko is going to get traded; as Army points out, his responsibility as GM is to the team and fans, not to an individual player requesting a trade. Armstrong can work as hard as he can to accommodate that request, but when the trade piece is a former 30 goal scorer, Armstrong has to get a decent return.
The potential return for Tarasenko has been dampened not just by his surgeries and the ensuing questions, but also by the fact that the entire league knows that Armstrong isn’t dealing from a position of power. He’s dealing to get rid of an asset.
Unfortunately for Tarasenko, he and his agent managed to torpedo demand for the left wing by publicly announcing their dissatisfaction with the Blues, especially in regards to the surgeries. Teams aren’t looking at the fact that the third surgery took (The Athletic - subscription required), they’re going to look at the fact that the first two didn’t. Even following the third surgery, Tarasenko looked tentative in his return and didn’t play like his old self until the Blues’ final playoff game.
There needs to be a larger sample size of play post-third surgery before GMs can accurately evaluate Tarasenko. It could, then, be in both his and the Blues’ best interests to hold onto him for one more season. If Tarasenko rebounds, it’s good for the Blues, and it’s good for him, both on the ice and off. Other GMs would be more likely to give up quality assets for him, even if he is entering the final year of his contract. Tarasenko could leverage his bounceback to sign a contract extension with a new team or on the free agent market.
Instead of coming out and demanding a trade - and leaking the reasons for it - Tarasenko probably should’ve focused on proving himself next year. It’s tough to work somewhere that you don’t want to be, but if Tarasenko genuinely does not want to be a Blue any longer, he may have to put his nose to the grindstone and prove that he has value to another team.