It’s beginning to feel more like the Great Star Player Migration in the NHL.
Big names all across the board want out. From Seth Jones to Jack Eichel, earth-shattering trades might just be all the rage this offseason. One name is a bit closer to home for Blues fans than others: 10-year veteran Vladimir Tarasenko.
According to a report by Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic (subscription required), Tarasenko requested a trade from the Blues following his third consecutive shoulder surgery. This surgery, performed by a medical group outside of the Blues, uncovered ligament damage left unaddressed by the organization. This lack of proper handling by the Blues has left Tarasenko feeling disenfranchised, which, in turn, caused him to request a trade.
With two years on his contract at a solid $7.5M cap hit per year, Tarasenko’s contract is hefty. Moving a player of his caliber will require very careful insight by general manager Doug Armstrong. This move could determine the direction of the Blues for the next few years. Succeed, and St. Louis remains in contention. Fail, and the team runs the risk of a teardown.
These three options could prove intriguing for Armstrong:
It’s no secret that Tarasenko trade talks have already been discussed. In fact, rumors tying the St. Louis Blues to teams like the Calgary Flames were sprouting up as early as last month. Shane O’Brien, co-host of the Steve Kouleas Powerplay Podcast, notes that the Flames want to move on from Matthew Tkachuk. While these are nothing more than rumors as of right now, the fact remains that both the Flames and the Blues need a shake-up. The Flames have yet to experience success with their roster, having won just one playoff round in the last 15 years.
Could a trade be done involving Tarasenko and Tkachuk? It’s hard to say. Tarasenko’s injury history may give the Flames pause. It’s been five years since Tarasenko played a full NHL season, and three shoulder surgeries should make anyone hesitate. If the Blues want Tkachuk, they may need to offer more in return. A Tarasenko-Klim Kostin combination should be enough to put a Tkachuk trade over the top. The Blues replace Tarasenko’s production and add a little grit while the Flames earn a young center and two years of Tarasenko. It’s a win-win for both teams.
New York Islanders
This is the second year in a row Lou Lamoriello’s Islanders have made it to the Final Four. Now, the Isles will be on the hunt for a move that will put them over the top. While Tarasenko is a tantalizing option for the Islanders, the return price might have a different look to it than the Tkachuk trade. Where the Tkachuk trade would slightly upgrade the roster, trading with the Islanders offers a different possibility: a retool.
The Islanders have a solid crop of young players and prospects. Among them lie Noah Dobson and Oliver Wahlstrom, two prospects drafted in 2018. Both players offer intriguing options into the Blues’ future. Should they choose to retool, Dobson and Wahlstrom could both make an immediate impact in the Blues’ system. While it’s highly unlikely the Blues can net both players, they could enlist a third party to lower Tarasenko’s cap hit. The Detroit Red Wings, who have $48M in cap space, would likely take on some of the money in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick. This move offers the Islanders an affordable top-line winger and more cap flexibility while providing the Blues with at least one young promising player.
In addition to the younger assets, the Blues can use Tarasenko’s cap space to make a big splash on the free agency market. If done correctly, the Blues could net significant young pieces and offset the loss of Tarasenko’s offense with a high-powered free agent.
If you haven’t noticed yet, the Tarasenko trade candidates all have one thing in common: they’re looking for a little extra playoff push. The Arizona Coyotes are in a curious conundrum. They’ve been attempting to trade Oliver Ekman-Larsson for nearly two seasons now and have yet to find a partner. Funny enough, their situation is similar to that of St. Louis, who have tried to inquire about Tarasenko in the past. Rutherford from The Athletic had this to say regarding Tarasenko:
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.
A defensive corps of Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, Ekman-Larsson, and Justin Faulk would immediately become one of the top bluelines in the NHL. Ekman-Larsson is signed through 2026-27, putting his timeline at the same end as Faulk’s. This is a high-risk, high-reward trade for the Blues. At its best, the Blues secure a top-pairing defenseman to help shoulder the loss of Alex Pietrangelo. At its worst, Ekman-Larsson’s production could dip to the point where the contract becomes a liability.