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How the Vladimir Tarasenko Trade Impacts the New York Rangers

On February 9, the New York Rangers, who are sitting in third place in the Metropolitan division, made a giant splash by making a trade with the St. Louis Blues. The Blueshirts sent Sammy Blais, a prospect and two draft picks for veteran forward Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola. Mikkola has played in the National Hockey League for four years but, the big name in this deal, Tarasenko has been in the NHL for 11 seasons and has scored 556 points in 649 games and has reached the 30-goal mark six times. He could make a push to become one the best Rangers player this season as they prepare for another playoff run.


Last year, the Rangers made it to the Eastern Conference finals. One of the reasons why was that General manager Chris Drury was able to acquire two veteran forwards who added scoring and presence to the room. Those players were Frank Vatrano and Andrew Copp who ended up being top-six forwards and playing important minutes for the team. Now, in his second year as the Blueshirt GM, Drury has gone out and traded for a proven goal scorer who has 41 goals in playoff contention. Now, can these two players be critical contributors to a deep playoff run this spring? Let"s take a closer look at two newest guys in Rangerstown.

Vladimir Tarasenko; Thoroughbred Forward

People have thought highly of Vladimir Tarasenko ever since he was drafted in the first round (16th overall) at the 2010 draft. His ascent to the NHL was right on schedule as he joined the league two seasons later. Then Tarasenko reached 20 goals for the first time during the 13-14 season while playing 64 games and had his breakout season the next year as he put up 37 goals. During the 2015-16 season, Tarasenko scored 40 goals for the first time in his career, making him a star. However, he has never reached that many goals since then.


Yet, Vladdy was plagued by injuries during both the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, where he played just 34 games in total. Last season, he rebounded by scoring 82 points and this year has 29 points in 38 games. But the Rangers traded for this skilled forward because he"s won the Cup and adds finishing ability. Specifically, Arthur Staple of the Athletic wrote that the Rangers wanted Tarasenko because for one, Jimmy Vesey had been playing in the top six a lot lately and not producing much. The team felt it needed an upgrade.

Adding Size is Never a Bad Thing

Many look at Mikkola as nothing more than an add-on to a deal which involved a two-time All-Star. He doesn"t have Tarasenko"s track record, but he is a strong defenseman at 6"4, 209 pounds, who has gained playoff experience over the last three years in St. Louis. Through his first five games as a Ranger, he has slotted onto a solid blueline on the third pair with Braden Schneider and looked solid. Mikkola has a plus-two rating in those five games and the team has won four of them which indicates he has fit in well so far.

The downside with Mikkola is his agility and puck handling because he is a bulky man whose game is best suited for using his size to protect the front of the net and lay deterring hits. At times, Niko can get outmaneuvered by quicker opposing forwards, which is to be expected but, when the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, they had five starting defensemen who were at least 6"3" tall; Alex Pietrangelo, Colton Parayko, Joel Edmundson, Robert Bortuzzo and Jay Bouwmeester. Now that the Rangers have added Mikkola, they have four physically dominant blueliners in K"Andre Miller, Schneider, Jacob Trouba and him. Size is important to have on your blueline in the playoffs and the Rangers gained some by adding this defenseman.

The Rangers improved by adding a former all-star who can score goals like Vladimir Tarasenko and a big defenseman in Mikkola. Both have played lots of playoff hockey for St. Louis and that experience will be invaluable come this spring. Through five games, Tarasenko in particular seems like a very disciplined player, as evidenced by the 185 penalty minutes, not much at all, he has accrued during an 11-year career. If Tarasenko can help allow the Rangers" top offensive players to do what they do best while playing in the top-six and maybe even improve the power play that is ninth in the NHL behind eastern conference peers, Boston and Buffalo, that would be welcome. The exciting part is watching how it all unfolds from here on out.

main image credits: Getty Images

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