There are no breaks in the NHL.
In the midst of the Stanley Cup Finals, it was reported that Vladimir Tarasenko has requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues. Tarasenko, 29, is just one of 30 players who have managed to score 40 goals in a season over the past 10 seasons.
Hampered by three shoulder surgeries, the Russian winger has appeared in just 34 games over the past two seasons despite missing just 15 games in the prior five seasons. Even with injury concerns, Tarasenko still possesses elite scoring talent and multiple teams will certainly be knocking on their door.
The Blues have some flexibility with a little over $17 million in cap space with a roster of 17, according to CapFriendly. This is important if the Blues wish to retain some salary to facilitate a trade, and they still have their first-round pick in this year’s draft as a bargaining chip should Tarasenko’s contract, which carries two more years at a $7.5-million cap hit with a no-trade clause, require a sweetener.
The Blues’ Cup window is still open, which rules out trades that involve picks and prospects, but it also leaves them with fewer options. Here’s a rundown of the 31 teams Tarasenko might end up.
Washington Capitals – Could a swap for Evgeny Kuznetsov make sense? There’s some history between the two teams with T.J. Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk, though the Caps have some decisions to make with the expansion draft first.
Calgary Flames – This one’s an Internet favourite, but despite the Flames’ tough season, the Blues will have to offer substantially more than just Tarasenko if they want to get Matthew Tkachuk. This is where the Blues’ first-round pick (16th overall) may come into play.
Seattle Kraken – They literally have a clean slate and anything is possible. The Kraken can draft players the Blues want and then flip them afterwards. Tarasenko gives the Kraken an elite player right off the bat, something the Knights didn’t have.
New York Rangers – Owner James Dolan wants to the team to win now and acquiring Tarasenko would be a big splashy move for new GM Chris Drury and form quite the duo with Artemi Panarin. The trouble may be figuring out who to send the other way.
Anaheim Ducks – They’re a dark horse because GM Bob Murray isn’t afraid to swing big, having been linked to Jack Eichel previously, and they have plenty of cap space. Two problems: Any assets they offer the Blues will likely be futures and Tarasenko can nix the deal if he thinks the Ducks won’t be competitive.
Philadelphia Flyers – They’re never afraid to make big moves and they have multiple pieces they can move, including Nolan Patrick and James van Riemsdyk, but whatever cap space they have will likely be used to address their defense.
Carolina Hurricanes – Under owner Tom Dundon they’re very cost-conscious and Tarasenko’s injury history carries some risk, even if the Canes have plenty of cap room. They could use more depth up front and it’ll take some pressure off Sebastian Aho.
Winnipeg Jets – They’ll have to some key decisions to make before the expansion draft, their blue line depth needs to be addressed and they’ve generally been conservative when it comes to acquiring players, but adding another top-six winger could certainly boost their offense.
Los Angeles Kings – Drew Doughty wants them to be competitive now, their future is bright and if the Kings can entice the Kraken to take Jonathan Quick, that will open up some cap space. However, acquiring Viktor Arvidsson might have prohibited them from adding another top-six winger.
Edmonton Oilers – The focus should be on the blue line, though imagine a power play with Tarasenko alongside Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl... Buying out James Neal frees up close to $4 million in cap space over the next two seasons, which fits the remaining two seasons on Tarasenko’s deal.
Florida Panthers – They’ll need to move salary to make it work, but bringing in Tarasenko might show Aleksander Barkov, who is entering the final year of his contract, that the Panthers are serious about winning. Buying out Keith Yandle opens up $4 million in cap space for the 2021-22 season.
Colorado Avalanche – Their focus will be on re-signing Cale Makar and Gabriel Landeskog, which leaves them with very little wiggle room unless they can strike a deal with the Kraken or another team to shed salary.
Chicago Blackhawks – It’s an interesting scenario, but the Blues would probably rather deal Tarasenko to a team outside the Central, and if Jonathan Toews returns, the Blackhawks don’t have the cap space.
Boston Bruins – It’s only possible if Taylor Hall doesn’t re-sign, though it’s strongly believed he will.
Montreal Canadiens – Depth on the wings is actually one of the Habs’ strengths, and the addition of Tarasenko seems redundant, especially if Jonathan Drouin returns.
Vegas Golden Knights – They’re one of the biggest big-name hunters out there, and moving Marc-Andre Fleury will free up $7 million in cap space, though their big problem is depth down the middle and not on the wings.
New York Islanders – There isn’t enough cap space at the moment and the Kraken won’t do anyone any favors. Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin deserve raises and Lou Lamoriello usually sticks to players he’s familiar with.
Pittsburgh Penguins – They’ll have to move money out, but Jason Zucker has a modified no-trade clause and their first priority will be to get some veteran help in net.
Nashville Predators – The Preds can make it work even without shedding Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen’s contracts, and trading Arvidsson is a sign that GM David Poile is looking at making significant changes. However, the Blues would probably prefer to send Tarasenko to a non-Central team.
Minnesota Wild – Imagine a line with Tarasenko and Kirill Kaprizov? This is where buying out Zach Parise this summer makes sense; the Wild can save over $5 million in cap space for the 2021-22 season, though the cap hit climbs back up to $6.37 million in 2022-23. Like the Preds, being in the same division as the Blues makes it an unlikely destination.
Slim to zero chance
Columbus Blue Jackets – GM Jarmo Kekalainen isn’t afraid to make a big move, but the team’s performance is trending in the wrong direction.
Vancouver Canucks – They have a ton of cap issues and face an uncertain future despite having some game-changing talent and eliminating the Blues from the playoffs two seasons ago.
Arizona Coyotes – The focus is on the future and it won’t be an appealing destination for Tarasenko.
New Jersey Devils – They’re a sneaky exciting team with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, but they’re not in a position to win now.
Tampa Bay Lightning – What is cap space?
Toronto Maple Leafs – Their cap structure is already heavily skewed towards their elite forwards which gives them little flexibility, and they’re already facing a big challenge re-signing Zach Hyman. Oh, and they need another goalie.
Detroit Red Wings – GM Steve Yzerman will need to make the sales pitch of a lifetime to convince Tarasenko to come. Even with key pieces in place already, the Wings are years away from competing.
Buffalo Sabres – With Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen likely gone, the Sabres are bottoming out. Again.
Ottawa Senators – They were surprisingly good and the future is pretty bright, but they’re expected to be a bottom-10 team next season.
San Jose Sharks – Saddled with bad contracts and an aging roster, even though they’ve been aggressive in pursuing big-name players in the past, there’s no fit.
Dallas Stars – Miro Heiskanen needs a new contract, Alexander Radulov should return and Ben Bishop may return, which doesn’t leave much room to fit Tarasenko’s contract, not to mention they’re a divisional foe.