It’s been five days since The Athletic first reported that star Blues right winger Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade.
It hasn’t been a perfect marriage, but it’s still surreal to think that the organization’s purest goal scorer since Brett Hull may have played his last game in the Blue Note.
Tarasenko has two years remaining on his eight-year, $60 million contract, and there’s no guarantee that Blues general manager Doug Armstrong will find a suitable trade before the start of the 2021-22 season. But a split is where this is headed, and it wouldn’t seem wise to keep a disgruntled player on the roster much longer — especially one who, according to sources, has questioned how the team’s medical staff handled his surgically repaired left shoulder.
How does Armstrong make this work, though, when the Blues are saying their championship window is still open and operating near the NHL’s $81.5 million salary cap? Does he trade for an established player or a package that may include prospects or draft picks? Does he dump salary and use it on another position? If so, how much of Tarasenko’s salary will the Blues have to retain?
It’s all part of a complex equation.
Since news of the trade request surfaced, many have suggested that the Blues should leave Tarasenko unprotected in the upcoming Seattle expansion draft. Teams are required to submit their protected lists by Saturday, and the draft will be held on July 21.
If only it were as easy as the Kraken taking Tarasenko off the books and the Blues using the $7.5 million of salary-cap space that freed up to upgrade the roster, either in a trade or free agency.
Seattle GM Ron Francis has a blank canvas with the Kraken, but while the expansion club has announced that it will be spending to the cap, would he commit nearly 10 percent of that to a 29-year-old winger who hasn’t looked the same since having three shoulder surgeries?
In addition to Tarasenko’s health history, there may be concerns about how his now-public rift with the Blues will be perceived by teams interested in him.
Furthermore, Tarasenko left his longtime agent, Mike Liut, this summer and joined Paul Theofanous. As it relates to the Kraken, Liut and Francis are second cousins and were teammates in Hartford, so Francis would have a deeper understanding of Tarasenko at his disposal, and with the recent split between Liut and Tarasenko, you’d have to wonder about Liut’s honest opinion.