It’s been almost two months since it was reported by the Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford that St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko requested a trade. The article said that Tarasenko was upset with how the Blues handled his first two shoulder surgeries that were performed by team doctors.
Needless to say, Rutherford says Tarasenko feels there’s no trust left between him and the organization. He wants out and to have a fresh start with a new team. But with preseason starting in a little less than a month, teams are putting the finishing touches on their rosters, and Tarasenko has yet to be moved. What are both Tarasenko’s and the Blues’ options at this point?
How To Go About Moving (Or Not) Vladimir Tarasenko
Retain Some of His Salary
Since Rutherford reported that, the Devils have signed big-name players Jonathan Bernier, Tomas Tatar and Dougie Hamilton. While they technically still have enough cap space for Tarasenko, they have made significant improvements to their team. Tarasenko isn’t a guaranteed improvement. He could be if he’s healthy, but his cap hit of $7.5 million this season is just too big for some teams to take that risk. Maybe they would take a risk if they only had to pay a fraction of that.
The Hurricanes have since signed Andrei Svechnikov and have offer sheeted Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Before they gave Kotkaniemi an offer sheet, they might have had enough cap space left for Tarasenko if the Blues retained some of his salary, and they still might if the Montreal Canadiens match it. But if they don’t, the Hurricanes will most definitely not care about Tarasenko anymore. They won’t have enough money to care. If the Blues would have been willing to retain some of Tarasenko’s salary, maybe the Hurricanes wouldn’t have offer sheeted Kotkaniemi and would’ve pushed harder for Tarasenko.
The problem is that the Blues general manager Doug Armstrong seems unwilling to retain salary. Not just for Tarasenko, but for anyone. There are a few other options if he remains unwilling to do that.
Trade Him Mid-season
If Vladimir Tarasenko has a good start to the season and can stay healthy, more teams might be interested in acquiring him. Armstrong might even be able to negotiate a trade without having to retain some of Tarasenko’s salary.
But there are a lot of unpredictables in this situation. First of all, Tarasenko has to show up to training camp. Since Tarasenko hasn’t publicly said anything about the situation, it’s hard to know if he’s emotionally hurt enough to not show up or if he would even feel comfortable showing up.
If he does show up, will his trade request be the talk of the locker room? Will it distract everyone from their play on the ice?
As long as Tarasenko shows up and plays well, he should draw some interest from other teams hoping to make a playoff push. But the process would certainly move along faster if Armstrong was willing to retain some of his salary.
While all Blues fans want Tarasenko to stay healthy and succeed, some of them hope that if he does report to training camp, he’ll be rebuilding the trust he feels he doesn’t have with the organization and stay here for the remainder of his contract, maybe the rest of his career. This seems like wishful thinking at best and a pipe dream realistically.
But if he reports to training camp, gets some minutes in preseason games, has chemistry with his linemates and puts up a few points, he could realize this isn’t the worst place to be. The keyword here is could.
Put Him on Unconditional Waivers and Terminate His Contract
Remember Patrik Berglund? The former Blues forward was a piece of the trade that brought Ryan O’Reilly to the Blues from the Buffalo Sabres. Berglund was unhappy with the trade and eventually missed practice and a road trip, causing the Sabres to suspend him indefinitely, then put him on unconditional waivers. Once he cleared, the Sabres terminated his contract.
Tarasenko doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to do this to his teammates and it is a rarity, but if he feels unhappy and like he has no other option, it could happen. This seems like the last resort option for both Tarasenko and the Blues.
If the Blues did this, Tarasenko would be free to go play in the KHL. The league is supposed to honour NHL contracts. So Tarasenko shouldn’t be able to go there while still under contract with the Blues.