Top Trades, Landing Spots for Blues Winger Vladimir Tarasenko
After nine seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko could be on the move this summer. Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli reported Tuesday the club is exploring a trade for the 29-year-old right winger.
Tarasenko has been an invaluable part of the Blues offense for years. He's their leader in goals (218) and points (442) since 2012-13, including five consecutive seasons with 33 or more goals from 2014-15 to 2018-19. He finished third among postseason goal scorers during the Blues' march to the 2019 Stanley Cup.
His second and third shoulder surgeries, however, limited Tarasenko to just 34 regular-season games over the past two seasons. On June 1, The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford speculated the winger might welcome a trade if the Blues build a more grinding, blue-collar roster.
St. Louis carries $17.4 million in projected salary-cap space for 2021-22, with key players such as Jaden Schwartz, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, Vince Dunn, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Bozak needing to be re-signed or replaced. Shipping out Tarasenko could free up cap room and perhaps add a player who might fit best within the system.
Tarasenko has two seasons remaining on his contract with an average annual value of $7.5 million. He also carries a full no-trade clause, but Seravalli reported Tarasenko has "alerted" the Blues to preferred trade destinations.
His injury history and cap hit could make Tarasenko difficult to move since the cap could remain at $81.5 million for 2021-22. Nevertheless, teams desperate for scoring punch could be willing to take him on.
Here are the top landing spots for the Blues sniper. Teams' roster needs and cap space factored into this compilation. Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.
The Florida Panthers were among this season's highest-scoring teams, finishing fourth with 3.36 goals per game. After failing to advance beyond the opening round of the playoffs, general manager Bill Zito could attempt to load up for a deep postseason push next year.
A lack of scoring depth on the right wing is an issue for the Panthers. While Patric Hornqvist, Anthony Duclair, Frank Vatrano and Owen Tippett skated at that position this season, none of them have Tarasenko's scoring pedigree.
The opportunity to play for a rising club such as the Panthers could be enticing for Tarasenko. He could slot in on the top line alongside center Aleksander Barkov or on the second line with high-scoring left winger Jonathan Huberdeau.
Tarasenko's $7.5 million cap hit, however, would be a tight squeeze. Florida has $13.1 million in projected cap space, with restricted free agents such as Duclair and Sam Bennett and unrestricted free agent Alex Wennberg in need of new contracts.
The Panthers will get some additional cap room when they lose a player to the Seattle Kraken in the July 21 expansion draft. They could also request that the Blues absorb part of Tarasenko's cap hit to facilitate a deal.
Los Angeles Kings
Los Angeles Kings general manager Rob Blake spent the past two seasons rebuilding the roster with promising young players and restocking his prospect pipeline. Having already acquired one scoring forward in Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators, he could add another by pursuing Tarasenko.
An anemic offense contributed to the Kings' tumble out of the playoff chase in the West Division. Their 2.54 goals per game was 27th. With veteran Drew Doughty expressing concern about the time he has left to compete for another Stanley Cup, an established scorer such as Tarasenko could provide a much-needed offensive boost.
On June 8, TSN's Darren Dreger reported L.A. hoped to acquire two top-six forwards through trades or free agency. Tarasenko could fill the right wing spot alongside top-line center Anze Kopitar. Signed through 2022-23, he also wouldn't be a mere one-year rental player. At 29, he could have several good seasons remaining if fully recovered from his shoulder surgeries.
With $15.4 million in projected cap space and all their core players under contract for 2021-22, the Kings have room to absorb Tarasenko's $7.5 million cap hit. They also possess considerable depth in promising youngsters to dangle as trade bait, though Blake won't part with top prospects Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte. He could also flip back the Blues' second-round pick he acquired via the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020.
At the very least, Tarasenko could help the Kings buy time for some of their budding talent to finish developing into full-fledged NHL players.
The Predators offense was a problem this season. Their 2.70 goals per game ranked 22nd and was the lowest among the 16 playoff clubs.
Apart from Filip Forsberg, Nashville lacks a reliable game-breaking forward. It got thinner, too, after shipping Viktor Arvidsson to the Kings on Thursday for draft picks. The Predators need a skilled winger to replace Arvidsson's production.
Tarasenko is a more natural scorer than Arvidsson. His addition to the top line could bolster Nashville's scoring depth. He would be a good fit alongside Forsberg and could provide a lift for struggling playmaking center Ryan Johansen.
The Predators possess $22.9 million in projected cap space. They could afford Tarasenko and still have room to sign starting goaltender Juuse Saros to a raise, re-sign or replace Pekka Rinne and Mikael Granlund and ink Eeli Tolvanen to an affordable short-term deal.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils have two talented young centers in Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes but lack experienced scorers on the wings. Maybe that will spur management to contact the Blues about Tarasenko.
A lack of offensive depth contributed to the Devils' failure to make the playoffs. Their 2.59 goals per game ranked 26th, and they shipped winger Kyle Palmieri to the New York Islanders the week before the trade deadline.
New Jersey's top-six wingers include Pavel Zacha (17 goals, 35 points), Yegor Sharangovich (16 goals, 30 points), Janne Kuokkanen (eight goals, 25 points) and Jesper Bratt (seven goals, 30 points). They have varying degrees of skill but lack Tarasenko's elite scoring ability.
With $37.6 million in projected cap space, the Devils have plenty of room to take on Tarasenko's contract, provided ownership is willing to spend. If the Blues are trying to shed salary, they could accept the low-cost package of a draft pick, a prospect and a young player in return.
The Devils might not be on Tarasenko's list of acceptable trade spots. Still, it wouldn't hurt for them to inquire. Having a winger of his talent skating alongside Hischier or Hughes would improve their offense as well as their playoff chances.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers surprised the hockey world May 5 by replacing team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton with former associate GM Chris Drury. Executive chairman James Dolan seems like he wants to accelerate the club's rebuilding process and push for the playoffs next season. Maybe that push could include adding Tarasenko.
On Monday, the New York Post's Larry Brooks reported Drury had preliminary talks with the Buffalo Sabres regarding Jack Eichel. Brooks suggested the Rangers next year could part with first-line center Mika Zibanejad, who's due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2022.
Brooks speculated Drury could have simply been performing due diligence. If Drury decides Eichel is too expensive and opts to keep Zibanejad, perhaps he will want to bring in an established first-line right winger on a short-term basis.
The Rangers are deep on the left wing with Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider and Alexis Lafreniere. They're thinner on the right side, where Pavel Buchnevich will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer. Youngsters Kaapo Kakko and Vitali Kravtsov have yet to realize their potential. A first line of Zibanejad centering Panarin and Tarasenko would pack a considerable offensive wallop.
New York has $23.8 million in projected cap space. It will get more if it buys out defenseman Tony DeAngelo and when it loses a player in the expansion draft. The Rangers have the available dollars and tradeable assets to make a competitive offer for Tarasenko.