There’s a long — and often not positive — history between elite NHL goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko and his club, the St. Louis Blues. It feels like at the beginning of every season he’s asking to be traded, and the rumor mill has been in overdrive lately.
However, with the Blues teetering on the edge of a playoff spot in the Central Division, now might be a great time to move Tarasenko — who has 25 points in 30 games on the season so far — for a high return.
The 31-year-old can yield a player and a pick without question but, for teams battling injuries and fighting in tight playoff races, he could be the piece they need to make that final push. This means they could offer up even more of a return in a competitive market.
According to CapFriendly, Tarasenko is in the last year of his deal and has a no-trade clause, which means he can decide where he goes. He’ll likely want to go to a team that has a shot at a deep postseason run. But the Blues, naturally, will look for an adequate package in return.
With that in mind, here are four potential Vladimir Tarasenko landing spots on the NHL trade market.
New York Islanders
Since the New York Islanders lost Jordan Eberle in the expansion draft, they have been struggling to find a winger who can keep up with superstar center Mathew Barzal. Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko could be the right fit on Barzal’s line, as he’s a natural goal scorer who can capitalize on shifty feeds from Barzal.
The Blues would have to retain some salary but in return, the Islanders have plenty of prospects and picks to give, particularly on defense. Robin Salo and Sebastian Aho have proven themselves worthy and are capable of generating both offense and defense, which could be an interesting offer for the Blues.
Once the Islanders get some players back from injury, they will be able to carry most of Tarasenko’s $7.5 million cap hit, allowing St. Louis to retain less than the maximum 50%. Which could be an important aspect for the Blues in the ongoing Tarasenko chronicles. Also, the Isles could capitalize on the half-year of Tarasenko’s contract and use him to make a playoff run before Barzal’s salary increases next season.
Imagine a world where one team has Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Vladimir Tarasenko. That could very well become a reality, as the Oilers have expressed a clear interest in the Russian forward. Adding him to the mix, especially when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is having a strong season and Evander Kane is out for a significant period of time, could be just the push the Oilers need to secure a top-three spot in the weak Pacific Division.
Tarasenko has scored over 30 goals in six of his NHL seasons, which would alleviate some of the pressure from McDavid and Draisaitl, and allow players like Zach Hyman to capitalize on his natural passing ability. The Oilers have pieces they can move too, sending any of trade bait Warren Foegele, Jesse Puljujarvi, or even blue liner Markus Niemelainen to St. Louis, helping the Blues address their holes.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Injuries have plagued the Maple Leafs yet again this season, and they had a rocky start to the campaign. So, it’s no real surprise that the front-heavy team went sniffing in St. Louis to see what they could do to get Tarasenko. Of course, the cap would be an issue in this deal, but rumors have circulated that the Maple Leafs would be willing to part with William Nylander in order to acquire Tarasenko.
The latter could add grit and a more physical game to a team that doesn’t really play with much sandpaper. Sending Nylander the other way is unlikely to solve the Blues’ gaps though, as they’d need some defensive return in the deal as well, and are left relatively unchanged in the salary cap situation. But, sending away defense isn’t exactly ideal for the Leafs either, who are relatively weak on the blue line. This deal would have to get more creative if it’s going to be mutually beneficial.
The Jets are somewhat of a surprise this season, exceeding expectations with a pretty solid hold on a playoff spot with a third of the season under their belts. But, the issue is who’s currently not in a top spot in the division: the Colorado Avalanche.
Ridden with injuries, the Avs are uncharacteristically and unexpectedly low in the standings but aren’t unlikely to stay there. To compete, the Jets will need to beef up the offense, and Tarasenko could do exactly that for the club.
Of course, trading a franchise player to a divisional rival — one of their direct competitors, no less — would be a bit of a struggle for St. Louis, but given the right return, anything is possible. The Jets are suffering in goals scored, sitting in the bottom ten in the league, and the club’s power play also needs a surge. Tarasenko could solve both of those issues pretty immediately, and the Blues could receive a reliable blue liner — think Neal Pionk — in return, which could help St. Louis in the playoffs, especially against a strong offensive team like the Avalanche, who will be the team to beat when they are healthy.
- Vladimir Tarasenko stats (2022): 30 games, 9 goals, 16 assists, 7 power-play points
To make it out of the playoffs in the Central Division, any team will have to go through the Avs, and the defense will be the way to do it. If the Blues think that way and think about the fact that Tarasenko is likely to leave when his contract is up with no return, this deal makes a bit more sense.