According to Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade, adding another storyline to what will be a chaotic offseason in the NHL.
The 29-year-old joins Jack Eichel (Sabres), Seth Jones (Blue Jackets), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Capitlas), Johnny Gaudreau (Flames) and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Coyotes) as stars that could potentially be moved this summer.
Tarasenko, who reportedly requested the trade earlier this offseason, has two years remaining on his eight-year, $60 million contract ($7.5 million annual average value) he signed in 2014. He has a full no-trade clause.
That will make a trade more difficult, especially in a flat, $81.5 million cap world. Nonetheless, the report states that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong is trying his hardest to facilitate a deal and hopes to get it done before the start of next season.
There are seemingly various reasons Tarasenko — who has dealt with shoulder problems over the course of his career — wants out, including concerns over the mishandling of injuries, trust issues and frustration over roles.
According to the report and sources close to Tarasenko, the three-time All-Star is not happy with how the team handled his shoulder surgeries in 2018 and 2019.
The first two team-conducted operations reportedly did not correct the initial ligament damage. Thus, Tarasenko had a third shoulder surgery last year, performed by non-club doctors at the Steadman Clinic in Edwards, Colo.
Additionally, prior to the playoffs in 2020, Tarasenko reportedly complained to the team about shoulder pain — this took place as “20 percent of [the team] had COVID-19 at some point” prior to the playoffs, according to Armstrong. Sources say Tarasenko believes the team waited too long to conduct additional testing.
Tarasenko left the bubble early to get his third surgery. After the Blues did not take responsibility for how they handled Tarasenko’s treatment plan, the 2010 first-round pick reportedly feels there is no trust left between him and the organization.
On the ice, Tarasenko struggled last season, notching four goals and 10 assists in 24 games. Sources say members of the organization criticized the right-winger’s play, furthering the divide.
Not only that, the nine-year veteran had a new role, including being the new net-front presence on the power-play, which disappointed the sniper. The Blues naming Ryan O’Reilly as the 23rd captain in team history the previous summer also reportedly frustrated Tarasenko.
With these issues mounting, a trade is likely. But there are few teams that can take on Tarasenko’s $7.5 million cap hit and his $9.5 million actual salary in 2021-22.
The Islanders have been mentioned as a potential fit, but they have just over $5 million is salary cap space with Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech, Ilya Sorokin, Casey Cizikias, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac and Andy Greene needing contracts. The Rangers, who are led by Tarasenko’s close friend Artemi Panarin — the two share an agent, Paul Theofanous — could be another landing spot.
Tarasenko will need to waive his no-trade clause before a trade is completed. Sources say No. 91’s camp has given the Blues a list of as many as 10 teams to which he would approve a trade.
Tarasenko still seems capable of playing at an elite level when healthy. His 218 goals in 531 regular-season games are fifth in franchise history, and he led his team to a Stanley Cup just two years ago (2018-19).
Is Tarasenko healthy? Will a team be able to add his $9.5 million salary to their payroll in a difficult financial year? Is he going to be flexible waiving his no-trade clause?
Those are the questions that need to be answered before Tarasenko’s future is decided. But for now, we wait.
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