Hockey

What to do with Vladimir Tarasenko

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It’s no secret that the St. Louis Blues have a Vladimir Tarasenko problem. It’s been over a month since it was first reported that the star winger requested a trade from the club, which usually means that a deal is going to happen when it becomes public. Many thought the Blues would trade Tarasenko before the expansion draft, which didn’t happen. Other than Carey Price, Tarasenko was the biggest name available for the Seattle Kraken to select in the expansion draft, though they opted to take the safer route and selected Vince Dunn. It was almost a certainty that Tarasenko was going to be dealt with before the start of free agency. After all, it would have benefited the Blues to have his cap hit off the books so they could know how much cap room they had to work with. Of course, this didn’t happen either, and as we stand a month away from training camp, Tarasenko is still on the Blues roster. So what now?

Are teams still interested?

The worst part of this dilemma from a St. Louis perspective is now that the draft and the initial rush of free agency has ended, the potential list of suitors for the sniper has dwindled significantly. Most teams that plan to spend to the cap already have done so, which leaves a roster player for roster player trade the best-case scenario for the Blues, but also the least likely considering Tarasenko’s injury history. It’s been suggested that the three New York metropolitan area teams are the ones that have shown interest recently. While Tarasenko would probably jump at the opportunity to play with old friend Artemi Panarin with the Rangers, it seems like New York is more focused on bringing in Jack Eichel than they are Tarasenko. The Devils have had an aggressive offseason, landing arguably the top free agent in Dougie Hamilton, so would New Jersey really want to add another large contract on their books? The Islanders seem like a logical fit as they seem to be one goal scorer away from taking the next step after back to back losses in the conference finals, but Lou Lamoriello is running a tight ship as always, so any links to Long Island are more than likely just speculation at this point. Blues GM Doug Armstrong has been particularly shrewd with trades in the past, but it might be time for him to bite the bullet and move Tarasenko for what he would consider a less than an ideal return.

Could Tarasenko stay put?

Of course, Armstrong doesn’t have to trade Tarasenko. The Blues have him under contract for another two seasons and could bank on him having a bounce-back year to help improve trade value and potentially move him at the trade deadline. But Armstrong has stated that the team’s Stanley Cup window is still open, so it wouldn’t make much sense to deal with Tarasenko if he is performing at the level he has in the past. While logic says that having the winger around when training camp begins could lead to problems in the dressing room, it is important to remember that Armstrong and Tarasenko are both professionals who have been around this game for a long time and should be able to put differences aside and not let their disconnect hinder the team’s performance. Maybe it’s just blind optimism from a longtime fan of both the team and the player, but I do see a scenario in which this offseason saga lights a fire in Tarasenko and after a full offseason, he can return to being the Blues’ most dangerous offensive player.

A year ago, it was hard to imagine Vladimir Tarasenko in a uniform that wasn’t blue and gold. A month ago, it looked like Tarasenko could play for any team but St. Louis. Now, we are at a state in which the situation could not be further from clear. Could we see Tarasenko in New York or New Jersey? Or will a surprise team emerge and take a chance on the former forty-goal scorer? Or will the two sides let bygones be bygones and work to bring another championship to St. Louis? Only time will tell.

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