St. Louis Blues Didn’t Get Enough For Vladimir Tarasenko For Now

Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

In sports, there are often two realities – one in a vacuum and one in actual reality. The St. Louis Blues are going through that right now with their trade of Vladimir Tarasenko.

In actual reality, the Blues did the best they could with the Tarasenko trade. Like it or not, what they received was probably the best they could get given the circumstances around the situation.

Tarasenko had a full no-trade clause. He basically had control over where he would go, if he would go.

While we have no clue if there were any other teams, it became clear that Tarasenko wanted to play with his buddy, Artemi Panarin. If the New York Rangers were the only option, the Blues were put in a difficult position.

If a team has any inclination you don’t have other offers, they can essentially offer whatever they want without being insulting. That’s what the Rangers did.

New York has an extra first-round pick for 2023, so they didn’t mind parting with that for a pure goal scorer. For them, it was a deal with tons of upside and little downside.

For the Blues, they needed to obtain a first-round pick. Anything less would be a failure, even though they were put in a spot where most knew they needed to get anything in return for a player that probably was not coming back once he hit free agency.

So, the Blues did the best they could in a limited situation. We should applaud Doug Armstrong for getting what he did. That’s the actual reality of it all.

However, in a vacuum, the trade stinks. From the Blues perspective, it stinks now and we won’t know if it gets any better for a long time.

While the Blues main concern seemed to be obtaining the pick and clearing salary room for 2023-24, it’s not a great move to give up a 30-goal scorer. When you view it in those terms, the Blues got a fourth line player and a prospect that may never be a full-time NHL player for someone who was in their top five all-time scoring as a franchise.

Fans will be quick to point to the draft pick. I don’t care about draft picks.

The NHL is not the NFL or NBA. On average, you’d be fortunate if five guys from any NHL draft play in the league in their first season.

The Blues will not be picking in the top five with whatever pick comes from the Rangers. My guess is that pick will come somewhere in the 20’s.

That is not to say you cannot get a good player that late in the first round. The anticipation is 2023 will have a very deep draft.

Depth of talent does not equal pro readiness. The Blues are not going into a full rebuild, so they’re not looking to rush any prospects or draftees, which means we are not going to see anyone drafted in 2023 until late in 2024 or, more likely 2025 or after.

There is a slim possibility that Armstrong could make other trades and package those picks for an actual player. If that happened, we could judge the deal more fairly sooner.

Assuming it does not happen, we won’t know what the Blues truly got for Tarasenko for years. If we go by my timeline and the draftee doesn’t play until 2025-26, we still wouldn’t get a clear picture of their true capabilities for another season or two.

We’re talking four to five years away before you can start to tell what kind of NHL player that person will be. Sometimes, it might be longer. Tage Thompson looked like a bust for four seasons before he broke out. Players all have different progression rates.

So, to me, the Blues got an asset you won’t might not be able to judge until late in this decade and a fourth line player. I’m predicting that Hunter Skinner doesn’t play much more than 20-games in a season, max. The fourth-round pick is essentially obtained in exchange for Niko Mikkola, so throw that one out the window.

Fans like to make an argument that supports whatever their mind had already made up. Tarasenko was not living up to their expectations, so he was clearly in decline.

How convenient we forget he set a career high for points in 2021-22, when everyone said he was desperate to get out of St. Louis. Very convenient they forget that he has scored 30 goals, or more, in every season he was actually healthy and played 70-plus games.

Despite having a down year, even with a hand injury that kept him out for several games, Tarasenko was on pace for 21 goals. Considering how bad everyone on the Blues has been in 2022-23, that’s not a terrible number to end up with.

People make him out to be older than he is too. Tarasenko turned 31 in mid-December. He still has good hockey left in front of him.

So, in a vacuum, the Blues didn’t get enough. As much as I rail on it, the pick is fine. At least it’s something.

For a 30-plus goal scorer, they needed to get a prospect that was projected to be a middle-six forward or above, or a second-pair defender type. Ideally, that prospect would have been on the verge of making the NHL next season.

I’m willing to accept that an actual NHL talent in return is asking too much. Frankly, I’d like something better than a fourth line player that’s best asset is making himself a human torpedo, but I digress.

Many fans love to continue to point out that Tarasenko didn’t want to be here. Prove it.

Don’t give me that nonsense about him asking for a trade. Though it was never directly quoted as to coming from Tarasenko’s mouth – it was his agent – I will not deny that he probably asked to be dealt away when he was angry about the botched shoulder surgery.

However, what proof is there he still wanted to leave? The only “proof” is that he never took the demand back.

Tarasenko is not exactly the most boisterous person when dealing with the media. Why do we think he needed to, or even had to, tell a beat reporter or a TV announcer that he wanted to stay? He didn’t owe anyone anything.

Nobody knows what goes on in the locker room, so this garbage of him being a cancer in the locker room is made up nonsense. What we can see is public interaction and Tarasenko was always smiling and joking and bumping into teammates in the pregame skate. If he was so hated, why would they want to be around him even in those moments?

Perhaps I am delusional, but I don’t agree with any of that. The Blues needed to trade him only because they had not offered an extension and probably would have lost out in free agency if they let him reach that point. The trade request didn’t play into it at all once they decided to keep him last offseason.

Last, but definitely not least, who replaces that scoring? So many Blues fans were obsessed with David Perron and his offensive ability.

Perron’s career best in St. Louis was 27 goals and never got more than 60 points with the Blues. The Blues were already trying to replace his scoring by committee and it was barely working.

Now, you remove a 30-plus goal scorer from the mix. Even if we say Jordan Kyrou will be the next 30-goal scorer, you need more than one guy scoring goals regularly.

You’ve taken a team that needs to focus on defense and stripped away more goals, thus making the need for defense even stronger in a year when free agents aren’t going to be the answer. It’s created a circle that will be hard to get out of.

No matter what you think of the guys in the system, they’re not Tarasenko. Zachary Bolduc is not going to score goals like that. Jake Neighbours isn’t going to be a prolific goal scorer.

Even in the deepest drafts, you’re rolling the dice pretty heavily if you think someone later stages of the first round will be a 30-goal scorer. This is not sour grapes, but the stuff that nobody wants to focus on since they’re all blinded by the Blues likely missing the playoffs or they’re stuck on the trade request that happens all the time elsewhere, but is a cardinal sin when we want to use it against a player.

It is simply an odd position to be in as a fan.

As mentioned, the Blues had to get something. Like they did with David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk, and others, they had made it clear that no extension was coming. You need to get something in return.

Given the no-trade clause and the fact Tarasenko could pick where he wanted to go, the Blues were limited in their options. So, in reality, they got what they could and may have maxed out what the Rangers were willing to give.

It’s just hard not to see things in a vacuum. You gave up a guy that still has the potential to put up 30 goals when he’s healthy for a fourth-line player that might be gone in the summer, an ECHL player and two draft picks (one of which likely never sees the NHL).

Next. Revisiting the Buchnevich trade. dark

This is the reality of the situation and we have to accept it. It’s just not what I dreamed of when thinking about the Blues trading away their best, pure goal scorer since Brett Hull.