Tarasenko Rumors fly
Frank Seravalli of TSN in his inaugural Ice Breakers blog stated that the St. Louis Blues are shopping All-Star Right Winger Vladimir Tarasenko. The news both comes as a shock and as ho-hum amongst the fan base.
Tarasenko, 29, is coming off his third shoulder surgery in four years. During the shortened 2021 season he skated in 24 of the team’s 56 games. He registered 14 points (4G, 10A) and scored St. Louis’ 2 goals in their 5-2 loss in game 4 of the first-round sweep by the Colorado Avalanche.
The Blues 2020-21 season was not one they had hoped for, finishing fourth in the Honda West division. Tarasenko’s performance left a lot to be desired offensively. While his defensive and poke-checking abilities improved.
“Not good enough,” Rob Staggenborg of the BlueNote Fan Report said. “He is getting paid to score goals, not forecheck and play defense.”
I have countered with, “He plays for a defensive-minded coach and that may be what he is being told to do.”
This debate has been waging all season in Facebook groups and Twitter. The fan site “Blues Views” released a tweet saying “Yes Please” to a quote from the Seravalli blog.
“The St. Louis Blues are exploring a trade for star winger Vladimir Tarasenko.” Seravalli wrote “While Tarasenko does hold the cards with a full no-trade clause, upon further vetting, it appears the player has alerted St. Louis to several teams he’d be willing to be dealt. A change of scenery is in order.”
The Blues View Tweet responses were split down the middle. Some noting that Tarasenko’s value has never been lower. Others say it is time for him to go.
After the season Tarasenko decided to join team Russia at the World championships. We asked, should he? Again the reaction was mixed. A player that was once a star if not a superstar, is now embattled. The man who scored the goal of the year against the Rangers a few years ago could now be one. But I am getting ahead of myself.
It might be well to look at this from a couple of different angles. First, from the organization’s standpoint. Second, what is his stock value, and who could be a few trading partners? Third from a business perspective. Last, from the player and fan base point of view.
GM Army’s tough choice.
The Blues drafted Tarasenko out of the KHL in the first round of 2010. The 16th overall selection quickly became a fan favorite scoring on his first two shots in his NHL debut. He has been a three-time All-Star (2015, 2016-17), been in the top 5 in goals 3 times (2014-15-2016-17), Top ten in points twice (2014-15, 2016-17), and help bring the Stanley cup to St Louis with great vision during the 2018-2019 playoffs.
This player normally puts butts in the seats. So why shop him now?
Tarasenko has played in just 42 games including the playoffs and has had two shoulder surgeries on his right shoulder. The fear of him having a career-ending injury may be at an all-time high. The Blues may think it is not if but when?
Tarasenko is 29 and has a cap hit of $7.5 million. A contending team with the need for depth scoring may be willing to take that chance and give up a couple of prospects or draft picks. This might be what Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong could be thinking. While a good amount might think his value is low, it could be slightly higher than we think.
Bull or Bear Market?
One thing is for sure, Tarasenko got out of the Blues what he wanted, The Stanley Cup. During a post-season press conference, a reporter asked him about scoring 50 goals. He responded, “I don’t care about that,” with his smirky grin continued. “I just want to win the Cup.”
Now that he has it and the shoulder issues, along with what seems to be the fan base turning on him. This could be a good time to explore options. One of those options just may be the New York Rangers.
Staggenborg release this tweet yesterday, June 29th.
With all the talk of @vt9191 maybe looking to move do not count out the @NYRangers … vladi and @artemiypanarin are besties and share the same agent. #waitwhat @RachelNHL @drophockeyshow @HISTLBluesFan @Ferrario101ESPN
— TheHockeyWriter – Blues – Rob Staggenborg (@RealBrockBanne1) June 30, 2021
After the season Tarasenko left his agent, Former Blue Mike Liut, and signed with Paul Theofanous who also manages Artemi Panarin. this could be a good fit for Tarasenko. He has connections with Panarin “The Bread Man” and the Rangers are in a win-now mode. Adding Tarasenko to the roster draws comparisons to the Detroit Redwings Signing Brett Hull. Detroit pared Hull with a young Russian, Pavel Datsyuk. Hull became his mentor for three years winning the cup in 2001.
Tarasenko could be that player for the Rangers. This time in reverse. The Rangers have a young budding superstar in Alexis Lafreniere. Tarasenko is the type of player that could mentor the young Canadian, just like Hull mentored Datsyuk.
What other teams could be involved, is completely up to #91. He has a full no-trade clause. Seravalli wrote, “it appears the player has alerted St. Louis to several teams he’d be willing to be dealt.” My guess would be solid teams that are on the verge of a championship, have cap room, and a prominent Russian player. The two teams that quickly come into mind are the Washing Capitals and the Minnesota Wild. There could be others, but we just don’t know. Tarasenko’s agent did not return our inquiry.
Now does this make sense for all parties involved?
The Business Question?
This is the “Brass Tax” as they say. What is the bottom line? Tarasenko has two years remaining on his contract. It basically comes down to this. Will he give me the $14 million in value that we have to pay him, or can we get other pieces that will? That is the conundrum facing the Blues front office. Can we get enough in return or is it just time to cut bait?
If you stop and think about it, it is almost surreal that we are even having this conversation. March 12, 2020, changed everything. The COVID Pandemic has changed our world in every aspect. Prior to the shutdown, the NHL was having one of its most profitable years. The Two-billion dollar television contract was just about up and by all reports was going to double.
NBC was all in. a streaming partner was being talked about. The salary cap was going to burst wide open. Now a year and a half later we are entering the second year of a flat cap. One story coming out of the Stanley Cup finals is how the Tampa Bay Lightning are 20 million over the cap. The money team thought they were going to have, is not there.
This plays a lot into the discussion and the decision that will be made regarding Tarasenko.
The other question to ask is, is the relationship beyond repair? This may be the easiest question to answer. It also brings us to the last point.
Has St. Louis and Tarasenko fallen out of love?
I saw it happen in the bubble and I saw it again this season. The once faithful and supporting Blues fans were no longer happy with their star right-winger. When he returned from his third surgery, the base was optimistic. That did not last long. When the goals did not come, the jeers did. “We paid him to score goals” was heard time and time again. The Facebook groups were full of posts stating, to leave him unprotected during the upcoming expansion draft.
I know many players try to drown out the noise, but this time it just might be too loud. A source speaking on the condition of anonymity texted me, ” (He) changed his agents because he didn’t like his ice time or PP position.” this may speak to a much larger problem. But this is not the article for that. Berube is safe for now Rob.
If Tarasenko is not traded and all of this is a bunch of hogwash. If Tarasenko has a good season, the sometimes fickle fan base will forgive all. One thing to remember about the off-season is they call it the Silly season. The Blues will be a team that a lot of these silly things will revolve around.
This organization and this fan base finally tasted success after 52 years. Let me tell you, it tasted sweet and savory all at the same time. The taste we got was not enough we want to the same amount that Chicago and Pittsburg had. This team could have had dynasty written all over it. Could it right the ship and rewrite the story?