With the St. Louis Blues struggling through the 2021 season with injury after injury, trading away a star scorer should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Regardless, there is always at least minor talk among fans about shipping Vladimir Tarasenko out of town.
The thought process is that the shoulder is done and he will never regain his form. The may well be true, but the reality is what would his value be if other teams believe he can never be healthy again?
If he could regain his form, there’s just no way you deal him off. It’s too hard to replace a 30-plus goal scorer, especially one who always had the potential to score 40-50 (potential being the key word).
Given certain circumstances, there is only one deal I might pursue that would include Tarasenko. It’s a team the Blues have worked with before under similar instances.
While he has not demanded a trade, it is known that Jack Eichel is not happy in Buffalo. Despite some upgrades, the Sabres are still not competitive and it is wearing on their current captain.
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If that sounds familiar, that’s how the Blues landed Ryan O’Reilly. No offense, but St. Louis didn’t give up much to land a player that was instrumental in winning a Stanley Cup.
Could they pull the same trick twice? Highly unlikely, but it depends on how far down the road of unhappiness Eichel is and what the Sabres would want in return.
In a vacuum, if Buffalo would take it, I would offer Tarasenko, Scott Perunovich and, perhaps, some mid-round draft pick. This way, the Sabres are tempted by the prospect of Perunovich, the way they were tempted by Tage Thompson.
Additionally, they have the possibility of Tarasenko returning to form to give them scoring punch. That might not be enough to entice the Sabres, but that’s about the only way the Blues should consider trading.
The reason this would work for the Blues is you’re acquiring a high-end scorer. 2019-20 was the first year Eichel passed 30 goals, but he’s been about as consistent as you’d want. Since his rookie season, he has never failed to score fewer than 24 goals.
The past three seasons, he’s had 60 points or more. Considering how poor Buffalo’s offense can be, that means he’s still finding ways to set up other guys.
The drawback is his position and salary. Eichel is a center, which would further jam up the middle spot.
He also makes $10 million per season, with all of that counting against the cap. That’s not a number the Blues are used to seeing on their ledger and also one that would prevent them from signing some of their younger players in the near future.
It would be difficult for the Blues to take on that kind of contract, but Tarasenko’s $7.5 million off the books would help. Clearing out the final $2.5 without losing a key player would be harder.
Nevertheless, it would be hard to argue it not being an upgrade. Championship teams are deep up the middle and while Eichel doesn’t give you the same amount of goals, you could make up the difference between Eichel and Tarasenko easier than you can just trading Tarasenko for a draft pick.
Eichel is also younger. He’s only 24, while Tarasenko is 29. Even if Tarasenko’s shoulder did heal, you should have a longer period of production coming from Eichel.
As much as I’d hate to see Tarasenko in another uniform, we’d all be able to stomach it with that kind of return.
Just as a note, this is not a rumor. Unless Eichel actually demands a trade – which he has not done, he has only voiced displeasure with losing – it’s extremely unlikely he gets traded.
The only other sticking point is that Tarasenko does have a no trade clause, so Buffalo might not be on his list of places to go. Nevertheless, given Buffalo being in a weird spot once again, that might be an avenue worth trying out.