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.
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.
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.
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.
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.