The late-night news that St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko wants to be traded sent shockwaves through the hockey world. According to The Athletic, Tarasenko is dissatisfied for several different reasons. First, he is the second-longest tenured player in the organization and was disappointed about not being named captain. Furthermore, he was unhappy with how the team handled his shoulder surgeries.
Tarasenko, 29, is a five-time 30-goal scorer who has won a Stanley Cup and has made two All-Star appearances. The prolific Russian goal scorer is now available, a rare and unexpected occurrence. He holds a no-trade clause, so he has a lot of control over his destination.
Drafted 16th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Wild passed him over when they took Mikael Granlund with the No. 9 pick.
Take a second and imagine Kirill Kaprizov and Tarasenko on a line together. It would be a pretty sweet combination, especially if the Wild can put a quality center in between them. Minnesota has lacked star power since its inception in 2000. Now they would have two goal-scoring wingers on the same line.
Oh yeah, and they’re both Russian, so maybe it would help Kaprizov feel even more comfortable.
Aside from Marian Gaborik and Kaprizov, the Wild have never had a pure goal scorer like Tarasenko. It is even more disappointing because Tarasenko is everything they desire. The organization has never had high-end talent on the right side. Kevin Fiala is the closest thing to a game-breaker the Wild have had on the right side even though he’s a left-shot.
Even if the Wild re-sign Kaprizov, it will most likely be a short-term deal because his agent has communicated that they would prefer to avoid anything long-term. Unfortunately for the Wild, there’s logic in this request. He wants to make sure this team is headed in the right direction; he wants the Stanley Cup. Bill Guerin still has a lot to fix in the aftermath of the Paul Fenton reign, including the center situation that Kaprizov wants to be upgraded.
Short of becoming a contender, there’s no way to guarantee that Kaprizov stays in Minnesota throughout his career. If he were ever to depart, you would have to wonder what it could have been had the Wild had a player like Tarasenko on the team.
Tarasenko would be the difference-maker that could become a breath of life for a franchise starved for talent. Not only would it provide Kaprizov with a Russian counterpart, but it would make him more comfortable knowing there is another All-Star-caliber player on the roster. Tarasenko has made a career off exploiting goalies with the dangerous, elusive shot he still possesses.
Whoever comes out ahead in the Tarasenko sweepstakes will be taking a meaningful risk. His shoulder injuries have interrupted part of his prime. He’s only 29 years old but has been limited to 34 regular-season games over the past two seasons. After five straight 30-plus goal seasons, the injuries have sidelined him for the better part of two years.
However, it’s certainly possible that he can return to being the 30-goal scorer he was just a few years ago.
After returning last season, Tarasenko notched 14 points in 24 games and scored two goals in four playoff games. A full offseason of rest and training could really make the difference, especially since he proved he can still produce since returning.
The asking price for him may not be as high as one would think. The Blues are practically forced to deal with him now, which means they might view this trade as a way to gain an extra protection spot in the upcoming expansion draft and clear some valuable salary-cap space. Also, his injury history makes him affordable right now.
The Blues are going to be one of the most cap-strapped teams in the league. They only have $17 million in space with five significant RFAs still unsigned, which include Ivan Barbashev, Zachary Sanford, Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Vince Dunn. This doesn’t even take into account that they have pending UFA’s Mike Hoffman, Jaden Schwartz, and Tyler Bozak, who they may want to extend.
This might actually be a welcome solution for both sides.
It truly is a missed opportunity because the Wild don’t have the ability to make a move for him despite the fact that adding an elite offensive weapon would significantly elevate their roster. He would add a much-needed element to a team that lacks talent beyond Kaprizov and Fiala.
The Wild still have RFAs Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala to re-sign and a center situation that needs improvement. Likewise, they don’t have the cap space in this financial climate because Zach Parise and Victor Rask are still on the books. Furthermore, they don’t have the roster spot for him, and they can’t bury Mats Zuccarello and his $6 million cap hit on the third line.
Minnesota won’t get Tarasenko because of their situation. They are still reeling from the sins of past GMs, which is a shame. Kaprizov and Tarasenko on the same line would be incredible, but it’s not going to happen.