The St. Louis Blues would pay good money to keep all their players healthy all the time. In rare instances, injuries can be good as far as the bottom line is concerned.
The St. Louis Blues would much rather have a healthy Vladimir Tarasenko going into the 2020-21 season. Of that, there is no doubt.
However, Joe Warden, one of our former editors, and the guys on the Rivs and BK show on 101 ESPN presented a very interesting idea. The Blues may actually benefit from Tarasenko’s injury, from a salary cap standpoint.
As of right now, Tarasenko is not even scheduled to be reevaluated by team doctors for five months. That means, barring unforeseen events, he would not even be reevaluated until a month after the season begins.
That’s just a reevaluation. While there are exceptions, reevaluations just give teams a better idea of when the player will actually return. For all we know, it could be a month or two beyond that. Or, it could be a week or two. There is no knowing.
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What the Blues do know, if they choose to go this route, is they can put Tarasenko on LTIR – long term injured reserve. That gives them the cap space of Taraenko’s deal, sort of on a prorated term.
While there are more intricacies to it, boiled down to the simplest form, if you put Tarasenko on LTIR, you get $7.5 million in cap space. The biggest caveat, again keeping things in simple terms, is you have to clear that amount of space once Tarasenko is ready to return.
So, if you put him on LTIR and use up his entire $7.5 million, you have to clear $7.5 million off your roster before he can play again. That’s a dangerous game to play, but it might be the easiest avenue to pursue right now.
As of the start of September, 2020, the Blues have $6,397,501 in cap space according to CapFriendly. That’s a decent chunk of change, but still around $2 or $3 million short of what Alex Pietrangelo is reported to want.
If you include Tarasenko’s value, suddenly you have approximately $13.9 million in cap space. It’s a little more complicated than all that, but it gives us the general idea.
That is more than enough to re-sign Pietrangelo and either keep Vince Dunn or perhaps give an extension to some other young player. It also gives the Blues the flexibility of time.
While everyone knew Jake Allen was likely to get traded, the Blues seemed to feel rushed to get it done as quickly as possible. Instead of waiting until the draft, when teams more desperate to get goaltending might have paid more, St. Louis accepted a third-round and seventh-round pick in return for their goaltender.
Using Tarasenko’s salary space from LTIR could help prevent them from doing something similar with whomever they decide to trade. Whether that is Tyler Bozak, Vince Dunn, Alex Steen or anyone else, the Blues get time to make those decisions.
It gives the team time to see what a player like Klim Kostin or Jordan Kyrou or Scott Perunovich can do in the NHL. If any of those names, or any other prospect, grabs the brass ring, you feel a lot more comfortable getting rid of known commodities like Bozak, etc.
Of course, the risk you run is teams catching on and refusing to deal, or not offering market value. It becomes a game of chicken, having to time things out just right so teams don’t box the Blues in and keep them from allowing Tarasenko to return because the Blues don’t have cap space.
Once upon a time, the Chicago Blackhawks performed something similar. They acquired players at the trade deadline that they could not really afford. However, with Patrick Kane injured, they got those players and Kane coincidentally could not return until the playoffs, when the salary cap no longer counts.
This situation is different than that, however. Unless the injury literally did not allow his return, there is no way the Blues try to hold out Tarasenko until the 2021 playoffs.
Thus, it is not a foolproof plan. It is an option though.
The Blues would rather have a healthy scorer. Still, given the circumstances, it is one of the many options Doug Armstrong will have to sift through as he tries to construct the 2020-21 Blues.