Last off-season, Blues fans had to contend with Doug Armstrong being unable to sign Alex Pietrangelo. This off-season, it appears they’re going to have to find a way to cope with Vladimir Tarasenko being dealt to another team.
Blues beat writer for The Athletic Jeremy Rutherford shared information from sources that believe that Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade out of St. Louis (subscription required). He does a solid job of breaking down the causes of the acrimony, where Tarasenko might wind up, and if teams could/would trade for him.
The long and the short of the reasons that Tarasenko is said to have requested a trade boils down to his shoulder. Three shoulder surgeries in quick succession have damaged Tarasenko’s value and led fans to question his readiness to play after his return this season. He looked tentative more often than not when he was on the ice, possibly carrying in the back of his mind that one more shoulder injury would be it.
The problem is Tarasenko’s reported perception of the quality of work in the first two surgeries, performed by Blues team doctors (the third was done by the Steadman Clinic in Edwards, CO).
In March, The Athletic wrote about those procedures and a third one, in 2020, which was carried out by non-club doctors at the Steadman Clinic in Edwards, Colo. The ligament damage from the first injury was not corrected in either of the first two operations, sources say, and wasn’t caught until Tarasenko was seen by the doctors at Steadman.
It’s easy to see why Tarasenko would be upset if this is accurate. Unnecessary stress and damage in his shoulder damages Tarasenko’s career. Anger at how the Blues handled the surgery appears to have boiled over to other aspects of his role on the team, such as his disappointment that Ryan O’Reilly was selected captain over him. Also nagging at Tarasenko was his use in front of the net on the power-play instead of using him at the point.
Tarasenko has a no-trade clause that he can waive with a list of teams, which limits who the Blues can make a deal with and potentially what they can get in return. Who - if anyone - acquires him boils down to who has cap space, who has assets to deal, and are they worthwhile to the Blues?
On Wednesday, The Athletic surveyed a handful of NHL general managers, who confirmed that Armstrong has quietly been shopping Tarasenko for a while. Those GMs were aware of his availability but are not interested. It’s a small sample but could be a glimpse of the difficulty the Blues can expect in trying to move him.
There’s the rub. Do teams even want to deal quality assets for a player of Tarasenko’s cost and injury history? If a team is willing to pick him up, they’re going to have to make the deal worthwhile for the Blues. St. Louis will be down a player who, in a healthy season, is a consistent scoring threat. The Blues can’t bet against that without a sure fire return in play, and it appears that other GMs are hesitant to take that much of a risk.
Rutherford’s story dovetails with the report from last month from Shane O’Brien that the Blues were “ready to move on” from Tarasenko. O’Brien’s speculation surrounded a hypothetical deal that saw Tarasenko and Matthew Tkachuk trade jerseys. Now we know that deal depends on if Calgary’s on Tarasenko’s list - and what package the Flames would want with Tarasenko for Tkachuk.