NHL Rumor Mill – July 9, 2021
TARASENKO TRADE CHATTER
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: Jeff Gordon believes Blues general manager Doug Armstrong can’t waste time trading Vladimir Tarasenko. They don’t want the unhappy winger’s situation becoming an unnecessary distraction heading into next season.
Armstrong faces an uphill battle. He’s not dealing from a position of strength because rival teams know there’s an urgency to move Tarasenko. The winger will only waive his no-trade clause for certain teams, he’s coming off three shoulder surgeries in two years and carries a $7.5 million annual average value for the next two years, earning $9.5 million in actual salary for 2021-22.
Gordon wonders if Armstrong will have to absorb part of Tarasenko’s cap hit or package him with draft picks and prospects to make him more enticing to other clubs. He can, however, use the freed-up cap space from a Tarasenko trade to re-sign free-agent Jaden Schwartz or Mike Hoffman, though the latter didn’t win over Blues coach Craig Berube this season.
Jim Thomas believes Armstrong will try to move Tarasenko before the July 17 expansion draft trade freeze (July 17-21) so as not to complicate his own protection list. Interested clubs, however, might prefer waiting until after the expansion draft to acquire him.
NEW YORK POST: David Lazar reports the New York Islanders have been mentioned as a potential destination for Tarasenko. However, they have just over $5 million in salary-cap space with several key free agents to re-sign or replace.
BOSTON HOCKEY NOW: Joe Haggerty looks at whether acquiring Tarasenko would work for the Bruins. His cap hit and no-trade clause are among the hurdles but the Bruins have $28 million in cap space.
Tarasenko’s injury history and the presence of several other stars (Jack Eichel, Seth Jones, Johnny Gaudreau) in the trade market could make him more affordable. Haggerty wonders if an offer of a first-round pick, Jake DeBrusk and perhaps St. Louis native Trent Frederic would entice the Blues.
WASHINGTON HOCKEY NOW: Sammi Silber floats the notion of the Capitals swapping Evgeny Kuznetsov for Tarasenko. The club is reportedly tired of Kuznetsov’s off-ice antics and could move the 28-year-old center this summer. They can afford to move him given their depth at center, including the promising Connor McMichael.
The Capitals could benefit from an additional scorer. However, Tarasenko’s age (29), injury history and cap hit could complicate things. Silber feels their focus should be on improving their defense corps. Still, swapping Kuznetsov for Tarasenko wouldn’t be the worst thing they could do.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Armstrong might have to toss a sweetener or two into the deal to move Tarasenko before the expansion draft. He could have better luck trading him heading into the NHL Draft weekend (July 23-24).
Lou Lamoriello is among the league’s craftiest general managers but I don’t think the Isles GM can pull off acquiring Tarasenko with his limited cap space. His focus will be on re-signing restricted free agents Anthony Beauvillier, Adam Pelech and Ilya Sorokin. Locking up those three will take a big bite out of their cap space, even with putting permanently sidelined Johnny Boychuk and his $6 million AAV on long-term injury reserve and having a player selected in the upcoming expansion draft.
The Rangers have plenty of cap space ($23 million) to acquire Tarasenko and still re-sign RFAs Pavel Buchnevich, Igor Shesterkin and Filip Chytil. However, they could have their sights set on Jack Eichel, putting them out of the Tarasenko sweepstakes. If they spurn Eichel for Tarasenko they must ensure sufficient long-term cap space to re-sign Mika Zibanejad before his UFA eligibility next summer.
While the Bruins will have lots of cap room with Tuukka Rask and David Krejci coming off their books, both players could return on cheaper short-term deals. Factor in the cost of re-signing defenseman Brandon Carlo and left winger Taylor Hall, and there might not be enough room for Tarasenko. Besides, the Bruins’ focus seems to be on shoring up the left side of their blueline.
Tarasenko for Kuznetsov would be a big-time “hockey trade”. However, I don’t think Kuznetsov would be a fit into the blue-collar, hardworking style favored by Blues coach Craig Berube.
CANUCKS SHOPPING SCHMIDT
SPORTSNET: Iain MacIntyre reports the Vancouver Canucks are exploring potential trade partners for Nate Schmidt. They acquired the 29-year-old defenseman last fall from the Vegas Golden Knights but his season in Vancouver proved as disappointing to him as it was for his team. He has four years and $23.8 million remaining on his contract.
THE PROVINCE: Patrick Johnston also took note of the recent Schmidt trade talk. While the blueliner hasn’t requested a trade, sources say he’d be amenable to a change of scenery.
There was speculation of swapping Schmidt for Oliver Ekman-Larsson with the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes could be among the teams Schmidt would agree to be dealt to while the Canucks were linked to Ekman-Larsson last fall.
However, a Canucks source dismissed the idea of a Schmidt-for- OEL deal. The price tag for the Coyotes blueliner and his declining performance make him a poor fit in Vancouver.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Will the Coyotes want Schmidt? GM Bill Armstrong appears to be getting ready to shake things up by shopping some veterans such as Ekman-Larsson and Phil Kessel. Maybe he’d prefer a young defenseman than a soon-to-be 30-year rearguard with four more seasons at $5.95 million annually on his contract.