St. Louis Blues: The One Reason Vladimir Tarasenko Will Still Be Traded

The St. Louis Blues are in an awkward position with their current forward Vladimir Tarasenko. It was made apparent that he wants a fresh start and rumors abound about locker room tensions regarding his actions and his on-ice play.

However, as the 2021 offseason has progressed and no trade has been made, it seems less and less likely that a deal gets done prior to the 2021-22 season. Many fans disagree, but Doug Armstrong has played this as well as he could.

The stronger opinions are that Armstrong needed to get rid of Tarasenko to cut out a proverbial locker room cancer before it makes the team ill. While that makes perfect sense and it’s normally not a good idea to have someone around that doesn’t want to be there, you simply cannot get zero return on a player that still has the potential to score goal numbers in the upper quarter of the league.

The risk in holding on is more minimal than some would indicate. If Tarasenko truly is done, you will not know until midway through the 2021-22 season, so by that time, you’re only risking $3.25 million for the rest of that season and maybe another portion of the $7.5 million he’s due the following season.

If you trade him for nothing and he returns to form, perhaps you have some cap space, but you’re down the amount of goals he provided. Armstrong is doing the smart play in either demanding a semi-decent return on a trade or banking on a motivated and, potentially, healthy Tarasenko wanting to prove his worth to potential suitors for later.

So, if that is the case, it seems less than likely Tarasenko gets dealt prior to the season since it makes more sense for other teams to wait and see how he starts. Yet, there’s still a monkey wrench in that plan – the New York Islanders.

When all the initial fervor around a Tarasenko trade died down, the Islanders were the only team that kept popping up. There was an extremely vague rumor about the Carolina Hurricanes midway through August, but that essentially just said they had interest. No offense, but over half the league probably has interest if the Blues would retain some of Tarasenko’s money, which makes no sense from the Blues perspective.

Through it all, there’s always this dangling thread of the Islanders out there. The reason Tarasenko might still get dealt is because the Islanders are clearly interested and neither team has fully taken care of their own business.

Both teams have interesting names unsigned

When free agency began, it was reported near the end of that first day that Casey Cizikas and Kyle Palmieri would be staying with the Islanders. This was disappointing because Palmieri would have been a good fit with the Blues as a replacement for Jaden Schwartz.

Here we are, almost a month later (depending on when you read this) and neither of those players have officially put pen to paper on a new contract on Long Island. Cizikas was rumored to have a six-year deal on the table, but nothing has come of it. There has been no rumor of potential salary, term or anything for Palmieri. That makes it seem like the Islanders are holding off until they know whether they might have a player that has a bigger contract coming in or not.

Similarly, the Blues have not finalized all their deals. Robert Thomas is still hanging out there.

Thomas has no leverage as a restricted free agent with no arbitration rights, but you don’t want him to feel slighted. While it was always a good possibility that Tyler Bozak might not be back, it is also of interest that he has not signed elsewhere.

Depending on his salary demands, it seems hard to believe his services would not be needed somewhere when he still provides leadership, mentorship and scoring punch for a third-line center. Perhaps, he is holding out for a possible return to St. Louis?

The reason I keep circling back to the Islanders situation holding everything up is because things probably would have been done already if they weren’t trying to see if they could iron something out.

For example, the Islanders currently have over $11 million in cap space. The only reason you wouldn’t sign at least one of Cizikas or Palmieri is because you think you might only be able to afford one and would need to decide which one afterward.

On a similar note, the Blues could have easily got the Robert Thomas deal done by now. As of August 24, the Blues have a little over $1.5 million in cap space available.

You can make a case for that being all the cap hit you allot for Thomas if you keep it at a two-year bridge deal. The Blues would still have a little wiggle room on the cap because Cap Friendly lists eight defensemen on their roster and they won’t keep eight for the season.

So, what’s the hangup on these deals? The rumored AAV on Cizikas is low that the Islanders could easily afford both Tarasnko and him. St. Louis has room for both Tarasenko and a potential extension on Thomas.

The fact these teams are still figuring it all out points to the idea that neither is completely done trying. Perhaps the Islanders are not offering enough in return for Armstrong’s liking. Maybe the Blues are asking too much in Lou Lamoriello’s estimation.

Whatever the case may be, it simply doesn’t make sense for these teams to not have their rosters essentially finalized if they were not still trying to work a deal. That doesn’t mean anything will happen, but if/when the Islanders do finally sign both of their remaining UFA’s, I would not be surprised at all if the Blues openly say Tarasenko is staying and needs to prove himself during the year.

Time will tell.