Trading Tarasenko

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Vladimir Tarasenko’s fate is up in the air as the Blues enter the 2021 offseason

It was reported last week that the St. Louis Blues could look to trade Vladimir Tarasenko this offseason. THis was reported by Frank Seravelli.

A trade makes a lot of sense for the Blues and for Tarasenko. No longer a face of the franchise, Tarasenko has had multiple shoulder surgeries and is still finding his way back to being a productive scoring forward. During the 2020-21 season, he had 4 goals and 10 assists in 24 games played. He still has tremendous ability ad upside, but the jury is out whether he can resume his place as a premier scoring forward in the NHL.

Four teams are said to be on the list Tarasenko provided to the Blues for which he would waive his no-trade clause: Las Vegas Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes, and the New York Islanders. Let’s look at what a deal could look like, with each destination.

The Golden Knights

In any deal, the Blues would probably need to take back some salary, to help offset Tarasenko’s $7 million per year. The Blues need to upgrade their scoring, particularly the LW slot on the top two lines. A player that fits that profile is Alex Tuch or Reilly Smith. Both are owed around $5 million next season. Smith is under contract just one more year, while Tuch has 5 more seasons under contract. Smith in particular, I think, would fit very well in the Berube “heavy hockey” system.

Hurricanes

To me, Nino Neiterreiter stands out as a likely target by the Blues. He has one more year on his contract, at $5.25 million. He plays wing on a scoring line, and scored 20 goals in the 2020-21 season. He doesn’t have the upside of Tarasenko, and with one less contract year. So Tarasenko would be an offensive upgrade for the ‘Canes.

Bruins

Jake DeBrusk I think the Blues would be extremely interested in. He’s a solid two-way player that can skate anywhere in the top 9. Although scoring only 5 goals in 41 games, he did have 46 goals in the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons. He has one more year on his current contract, at just over $3.5 million. The Blues could also ask for a 2nd round pick in the package.

Islanders

Brock Nelson is the name the Blues should ask for in return for Tarasenko. He’s the 2nd line center for the Islanders, and is strong offensively and defensively. I had though Jordan Eberle could be a target, but his two-way game isn’t as strong. Nelson is owed $6 million per season over the next 4 years. He could slot in on the 1st or 2nd line LW for the Blues.

Now, the Eyes on Isles blog speculates here that a Tarasenko trade would be largely draft pick-based. Take it for what its worth.

The bottom line for the Blues is they need to upgrade their scoring, preferably on the left wing. They don’t know what Tarasenko will be next year and beyond. They have a lot of salary coming off the books, but a portion of that will be eaten up again by re-signing RFAs and some UFAs. Tarasenko is owed $7.5 million next year and the year after that. Trading him represents an opportunity to A) give him a change of scenery, B) clear salary space, and C) potentially acquire offensive help. I think the Blues will accomplish at least 2 of those things.

Offense Back on Track

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Vladimir Tarasenko scored his 4th of the year to get the Blues going in their 2nd win over Colorado.

After losing 5 in a row to the Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues on Monday night defeated them for the 2nd consecutive game.

With the victory, the Blues now are 1 point over Arizona in the Honda West Division.

The Blues got goals from Vladimir Tarasenko, David Perron, Brayden Schenn and Robert Thomas. For Tarasenko, it was just his 4th goal of the season after coming back from his shoulder injury. For Schenn, it was his first in 20 games. All goals were by forwards. More importantly, they were by forwards that you expect to see on the scoresheet on any given night.

This was the kind of game the Blues need more of as they power down the stretch toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Timely goal scoring, solid defense and stony goaltending.

It’s great to see Tarasenko get on the board. His goal came in the first period; he was set up in front of the crease and when the puck landed near him, he whiffed at first but made contact on his 2nd shot and put it in the net. We need to see more of this from him – the willingness to play near the goal and get the “dirty” goals. He’s a sniper that can score from yards away but he can also help by causing chaos near the goalie.

It was also long past time for Thomas to score. Although he dealt with an injury for several games, he just has 2 goals now in 23 games played. He was and is being counted on to be a significant contributor to the Blues top 9 forwards. It was hoped he’d take a big step forward in his development as a scorer. So far that has not come to fruition.

The victory was even more impressive considering the Blues were without 2 of their top 6 defensemen. Parayko and Dunn were ruled out before the game, both sustaining injuries during the previous game. Steven Santini debuted with the Blues. Not a rookie, Santini previously played with the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators. He signed a 2-way deal with the Blues last offseason. He played in 39 games for the Devils in 2018-19, with 4 points. He could get an extended look, depending on the length of time that injuries hold out Parayko and Dunn.

The Blues are pretty healthy now, forward-wise. But they need Parayko, as he’s a big-bodied, top pairing guy that’s hard to replace.

The Blues will now turn their attention to the Minnesota Wild for the next 3 games. Every game, every point is crucial now for the Blues, fighting for a place in the playoffs.

Resumed Pursuit?

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Yesterday I saw on Twitter that the St. Louis Blues were reportedly asking about the price to acquire Buffalo Sabres winger Taylor Hall.

If you recall, the Blues also reportedly were in talks in 2019 when the Devils made him available. He eventually went to the Coyotes for a steep, 4-piece package that included a conditional 1st round pick and a 3rd rounder. The price is even more steep considering he fled the Coyotes in free agency to sign with Buffalo.

Hall is on a one year deal with the Sabres, which makes him, yet again, a rental player for any acquiring team. The price, per the Sabres, is apparently a 1st round draft pick. Hall, though 32 games, has just 2 goals this season, and the fact that he isn’t lighting up the scoresheet may suppress the price.

The other day, Eric Staal fetched a 3rd and 5th round pick from Montreal. Staal isn’t a forward of Hall’s ability by any means, but he does have 10 points on the season.

So let’s break this down from the Blues perspective. The Blues are in a kind of free fall right, losing last night to the less than world-beating Ducks, and with their offense in a severe funk. The fundamentals are spotty, and the team is suffering from defensive breakdowns, not to mention an unprecedented injury bug. Some fans are convinced this isn’t their year.

So why would the Blues want to acquire Hall? Well, Doug Armstrong is always on the prowl for elite talent that could help the team out now (and in the future). Hall is 29, still in the prime of his career (theoretically). Armstrong probably isn’t sure what they have in Tarasenko, recently returned from injury. Will he regain his elite form? The team will lose a player in this summer’s expansion draft. So all that may have Armstrong seeing how he can change up the roster and add scoring. Presumably, the Blues would look to extend Hall in the offseason.

If they were so inclined, they would have the salary cap space for it. The contracts of Bozak, Schwartz, Gunnarsson, and Hoffman are all up after this season.

But the Blues may be interested primarily because they view a shakeup of the team’s chemistry as necessary for the playoff push. They’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games.

So what would the price be? The Blues aren’t averse to trading draft picks, even 1st round ones. Their 1st for the 2021 draft is intact should they want to offer it. But teams need to hang on to their 1st round picks if they want to keep the talent pipeline flowing. And certainly, the price gets less the longer Buffalo holds on to Hall.

The Blues also may look to shake up things even more by spinning off underperforming players for picks, which they could package to get Hall. Although any of the players that could conceivably be moved – Dunn, Hoffman – would fetch a 1st round pick.

So I think a Hall acquisition to be unlikely, but Armstrong is more than capable of pulling off a surprise. And wouldn’t Hall look great in the Note sweater.