Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko was traded Thursday to the Rangers as part of a 4-player, 2-pick deal.
The Tarasenko era is over. Two years after first requesting a trade, the Blues star winger got his wish, being dealt to the New York Rangers in a multi-player swap.
The Blues also sent defenseman Niko Mikkola to the Rangers in exchange for forward Sammy Blais, prospect defensemen Hunter Skinner, a conditional first round pick, and a conditional fourth round pick. The Blues also agreed to pay half of Tarasenko’s remaining salary for this year, apparently.
The conditional picks are a bit tricky. The fourth round pick evidently becomes a third round pick if the Rangers qualify for the playoffs this season. The first round pick will be the lesser of New York’s 2 first-rounders, unless the Rangers are in the top 10, in which case the pick transfers to 2024. The Rangers had acquired Dallas’s first round pick in an earlier trade.
It is a decent return for Tarasenko, who the Rangers will have for 31 games (regular season). The Blues achieved some cap room, reacquired a face with whom they’re very familiar (Blais), and now have 2 first-round picks in the 2023 Draft. A trade was long expected by Blues fans, ever since Tarasenko requested one in the winter of 2021. A deal did not materialize then, nor during that season or the one following. He has no-trade protection, which essentially means he could select his destination. The Rangers were said to be on his list for a while. He and Rangers forward Artemi Panarin are good friends.
The Blues pulled the trigger on a roster shakeup in light of their underperformance. Now sub-.500, the Blues are going nowhere fast. With the playoffs falling ever more out of reach, Doug Armstrong is motivated to get assets for players that won’t be back next year.
Sammy Blais is an interesting pickup. He of course was sent to the Rangers in the deal for Pavel Buchnevich. He has 0 goals and just a handful of assists in parts of 2 seasons with them. He did have an ACL injury that kept him sidelined for a while. Naturally he is familiar with the Blues way of playing and will slide into the lineup, probably right away.
Now the attention turns to the remaining unrestricted free agents-to-be: Ryan O’Reilly, Noel Acciari, Thomas Greiss and Ivan Barbashev. Will any or all of them be traded by the deadline? None of those players will garner the package the Blues got for Tarasenko, so Doug Armstrong will have to decide whether the return is worth sending the player away.
Tarasenko is also the only one who we can say with any certainty would not return to the Blues next year. O’Reilly wants to stay, and the other 3 serve very useful roles and haven’t publicly said anything about not liking playing for the team.
The Blues need to see what potential there is in Jake Neighbours, Nikita Alexandrov, and Tyler Tucker. They need these and other young players to keep developing in the NHL, so they can make up a new core that can win as soon as next year.
All the best to Tarasenko and Mikkola in New York. The Rangers are closer to winning a Cup than the Blues are right now.