St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko wants to be traded out of town — preferably before next season — according to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic (sub required).
What to know about Tarasenko as he reportedly requests trade from Blues
Even by the often-fraught standards of a prominent (more or less prime-aged) player wanting a trade, the Blues/Tarasenko situation is especially tricky, and interesting.
First, a few of the more straightforward things to consider:
- Tarasenko is 29, and underwent three recent shoulder surgeries.
- The sniping winger carries a $7.5 million cap hit through the 2022-23 season. Perhaps crucially, that contract includes a no-trade clause.
- Could a trade appeal more to a team with deeper pockets? In 2021-22, Tarasenko’s actual salary is $9.5M. Then, in 2022-23, it goes down to $5.5M.
Earlier in the life of Tarasenko’s contract, that $7.5M cap hit was something of a steal.
From 2014-15 through 2018-19, Tarasenko scored at least 33 goals each season (including 40 in 2015-16). He reached 73+ points during three of those seasons.
But things haven’t gone as swimmingly the past two seasons.
2019-20: 10 points (3G, 7A) in 10 games played
2020-21: 14 points (4G, 10A) in 24 GP
So, the Blues could risk selling low on Tarasenko in a potential trade. NHL-wide opinion probably couldn’t be much more tepid on the winger — at least at this point of his career.
Vladimir Tarasenko, requesting a trade from STL, was a consistently elite offensive weapon up until his injury problems. Now he's a big question mark. Upside is immense, but there's obviously a risk associated. #STLBlues pic.twitter.com/ifgGjzGV7v
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) July 8, 2021
Theoretically, Tarasenko might have just needed time to heal up, and the Blues’ failures could allow him to rest up. But there’s also the possibility that Tarasenko will never be the same. We’ve seen some players bounce back from health issues to have healthy seasons at age 29, and later. But we’ve also seen snipers fall off drastically due to a mix of injuries and the aging curve.
At that $7.5M cap hit, amid a flat salary cap, Tarasenko might be a hard sell. Especially since he’s not really renowned for defensive play.
Report: rift stems from shoulder surgeries
Add Tarasenko to a list of interesting offseason trade possibilities. It may also be appropriate to associate Tarasenko with Jack Eichel in broader ways, as it seems that surgeries/health-related-reasons might have driven a wedge between player and team.
Read more about those issues in Rutherford’s report, but this explanation of Tarasenko’s shoulder surgeries and his Blues trade request is really telling:
In March, The Athletic wrote about those procedures and a third one, in 2020, which was carried out by non-club doctors at the Steadman Clinic in Edwards, Colo. The ligament damage from the first injury was not corrected in either of the first two operations, sources say, and wasn’t caught until Tarasenko was seen by the doctors at Steadman.
Whether the Blues mishandled Tarasenko’s shoulder surgeries or not, the bottom line is that Portzline reports that Tarasenko requested a trade.
Can the Blues pull it off? Would it require salary retention? Considering the $9.5M price tag for next season specifically, might Tarasenko and the Blues need to wait for a trade down the line?
We’ll find out, and it sounds like it won’t be easy — but it could get interesting.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.