Vladimir Tarasenko is the latest big name to enter the offseason trade rumor mill after a report surfaced this week that he has requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues.
Assuming the Blues work to honor that request this is going to be a complicated trade to pull off with what might be a very limited market.
Let’s start with the fact that Tarasenko has only played in 42 games (including playoffs) over the past two seasons, scoring just nine goals in the process. He has had major shoulder issues, has two years remaining on his contract, and his actual salary that teams will owe him is greater than his remaining salary cap hit this season. That could be problematic for teams that do not spend to the limits of the salary cap.
The finances are complicated. There are injury concerns. He also turns 30 this season. That could scare potential suitors away with that sort of risk.
But where there is risk, there is reward. And if turns out that Tarasenko recovers from his shoulder issues, is fully healthy, and returns to his pre-injury form he is still one of the most dominant offensive players and goal scoring wingers in the league. That is going to be attractive to somebody.
Here we take a look at some teams that should have interest.
Teams that should be calling
New York Rangers
There are a lot of reasons why this one makes sense.
For starters, there is a connection between Tarasenko and Rangers superstar Artemi Panarin. They would no doubt have an interesting joining forces in New York and getting an opportunity to play together in the NHL. There is also the fact the Rangers are going to be under immense pressure to win, and win this season. They overhauled their entire front office and coaching staff because they were not seeing immediate results, and another season out of the playoffs is not going to be accepted by anybody. You can be sure they will be in the market for a big addition.
The Rangers are also a team that can swing this financially.
They have the salary cap space to take on Tarasenko’s $7.5 million salary cap number, and they also have the big market budget to pay him the $9 million in actual salary that he is owed this season. Not many teams could do that.
The Rangers seem like a major team to watch here.
The Oilers seem to be putting all of their eggs in the Duncan Keith basket, and while I understand the need to upgrade the defense, I am not sure that is the path to take.
Even though defense is a need, adding another impact forward is as well.
Do we really need to go over the numbers again? When neither Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl is on the ice, the Oilers were outscored by a 29-52 margin this season and attempted just 44 percent of the total shot attempts. When one of them is on the ice, they are great. When both of them are on the ice, they are a Stanley Cup contender. But all of that still leaves 20-25 minutes a game where neither is on the ice, and they get absolutely crushed in those minutes and they have for the entirety of the careers of McDavid and Draisaitl.
Adding a player like Tarasenko, assuming he is healthy, could add another impact player to the lineup to help form a reliable second scoring line when the Oilers play McDavid and Draisaitl together.
If the Oilers are going to take a big financial risk this offseason on a big name player they should take it on the player (Tarasenko) that still has a chance to be a star.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils are in a really good position this offseason to make some moves.
They have a couple of young stars to build around (Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier, Mackenzie Blackwood, Ty Smith) and they are swimming in salary cap space in an offseason where teams might have to dump some money.
They could be major players this offseason, and they need another goal scorer. They should check in.
This could be something, maybe even expansion draft related. If the Blues know they are going to have to part ways with Tarasenko they could either leave him exposed in the expansion draft and hope Seattle takes him, clearing the remaining salary cap space from his contract, or work out a deal of some sort with the Kraken. Seattle has all of the salary cap space in the world, has the green light to spend to the cap, and Tarasenko could be the type of high-reward player that could make them competitive early on.
From a hockey standpoint this could make sense. The Predators need more offense, they just traded Viktor Arvidsson for draft picks, Tarasenko could be a big upgrade, and Nashville has a recent track record of trying to make big splashes like this in trades. The financials make it a little complicated, though. Is Nashville going to want to spend $9 million in actual salary on a player with his recent injury history? Do they have the salary cap space to fit his contract for two years?
Columbus Blue Jackets
Another team that needs goal scoring. They tried to make a big splash a year ago with Patrik Laine, but his first year with the team was a mess. Does he bounce back under a new coach? Or with a fresh start? Even if he does he alone is not going to be enough to boost this offense.
The Bruins always seem connected to every big player that is available on the market, but this would be difficult given what all they need to do this offseason. They would like to re-sign Taylor Hall, while long-time core players David Krejci and Tuukka Rask are also unrestricted free agents. Hard to imagine them re-signing all three and having the room to add Tarasenko.
New York Islanders
This could be a fit from a hockey and need standpoint, but it would require a lot of moving parts to make it work under the salary cap. Is that worth it given the (very legitimate) questions surrounding Tarasenko (age, shoulder, contract)? It could make sense, but it does not seem realistic.