NHL Rumor Mill – September 16, 2021

by | Sep 16, 2021 | Rumors | 39 comments

Updates on Vladimir Tarasenko and Robert Thomas while several notable unrestricted free agents could become tryout targets. Check out the latest in today’s NHL rumor mill.

THE ATHLETIC: Eric Duhatschek was asked about St. Louis Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko’s status in a recent mailbag segment. He doesn’t consider the 29-year-old’s contract as untradeable because this summer’s proved there’s no such thing, pointing to Tyler Johnson, Andrew Ladd and Loui Eriksson getting moved for a price.

ST. LOUIS, MO – SEPTEMBER 12: Vladimir Tarasenko #91 of the St. Louis Blues poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season on September 12, 2019 at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tarasenko has two years left on his contract with an annual average value of $7.5 million. However, Duhatschek points out the winger will earn $9.5 million in actual salary this season, dropping to $5.5 million next season.

Despite Tarasenko’s trade request, Duhatschek speculates the winger will report to the Blues if he’s not moved when training camp opens next week. He feels the two sides will “make nice” and coexist while his salary-cap dollars click off and teams get an opportunity to evaluate his skill level following his third shoulder surgery.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: It appears the window for moving Tarasenko during the offseason has closed. Concerns over his thrice-repaired shoulder and his contract have made teams leery of meeting what could be an expensive asking price from the Blues. Most teams have also invested most of their cap space into the coming season’s rosters.

As Duhatschek points out, things could change quickly and perhaps Tarasenko gets traded before camp opens. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if he spends this season with the Blues and gets traded next summer. Teams will have more cap space and a willingness to take on his lower actual salary for 2022-23.

Jeremy Rutherford reports the contract standoff continues between the Blues and restricted free agent Robert Thomas. The 22-year-old forward is coming off his entry-level deal with little leverage except if he signs an offer sheet with a rival club.

The Blues have almost no cap space left for the coming season. If a team signed Thomas for between $2.055 million and $4.11 million and the Blues declined to match, they’d receive a second-round pick as compensation.

Rutherford suggested the Arizona Coyotes as a possibility. General manager Bill Armstrong knows Thomas well, having drafted him when he was the Blues director of amateur scouting. He also has five second-round picks in next year’s draft. So far, however, there’s no indication Armstrong will make that move.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Maybe Armstrong doesn’t want to cross his former team. Perhaps he’s not that keen on Thomas. Or maybe he intends to use those picks as trade chips for better options between now and next year’s draft.

As for Thomas and the Blues’ cap situation, they’re expected to place sidelined Oskar Sundqvist on long-term injury reserve to start the season. That’ll give them sufficient room to sign Thomas for perhaps $2 million on a one-year deal. They’ll have to shed salary when Sundqvist returns but other ways could be found to accomplish that. Maybe a deal for Tarasenko will have emerged by then.

NOTE: My original note incorrectly stated Bill Armstrong was related to Blues general manager Doug Armstrong. I apologize for any confusion my error may have caused. 

THE HOCKEY NEWS: Right wing James Neal, center Travis Zajac, and defenseman Jason Demers are among Steven Ellis’ list of 10 noteworthy unrestricted free agents who might get the call for professional tryout offers.

The others include right wing Alex Chiasson, defenseman Sami Vatanen, left wing Alex Galchenyuk, center Tyler Ennis, left wing Nikita Gusev, goaltender Devan Dubnyk and blueliner Erik Gustafsson.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The flattened salary has taken its toll on the UFA market. Several of those veterans would’ve landed affordable short-term contracts with NHL clubs by now. Some of them could avoid the PTO route by inking one-year deals for under $1 million. Others, however, could find themselves waiting in vain for any type of NHL offer.


  1. Regarding Vladdy and Thomas—the “Prince” is exhausted!! Can’t take anymore……..

    Let’s play Hockey!!

    • Long live the prince …Hail Atlantis.

  2. I would think the Blues want to keep Thomas. Young first rounder with Lots of upside. Waiting until money becomes available I am guessing . There is the offer sheet risk but unless ridiculousness come into play it would be matched. Not giving him away for a second round pick

    • It really looks like Jermey Rutherford (STL Blues Writer) has gotten worked over by either Tarasenko’s Agent, or just simply trying to increase subscriptions to his Athletic Column, because he has been way off on the Tarasenko story all off season. The fact that Tarasenko, Bozak, Bortuzzo, Scandella, Krug, Faulk, and several other Blues have been on the ice working out together for over a month, pretty much tells the story on how “Bad” the relationship is with Tarasenko and his Teammates. On 101.1 ESPN in St. Louis, they had Chris Kerber on a week ago, who mentioned that Bozak would likely be resigned. He mentioned that the Blues had roughly 5.1 million in cap space before the Bozak resigning was announced, which included Sunny being placed on LTIR until at least late December. He also mentioned that guys like Mackenzie (900K) and Clifford (1.0M) could be waived during camp or buried in the AHL. Rutherford is going to do whatever he can to drive subscribers to the Athletic. He pushed BS about Petro last off season and now Tarasenko this off season.

      • Kerber must have been pretty lit when stated the Blues have “roughly $5.1MM in cap space before the Bozak signing”. Bozak signed for $750k and CapFriendly $781k remaining. Even with Sunny going on LTIR, best that can offer to the Blues is an additional $1.375MM.

        I have to believe Army has something up his sleeve. A Tank deal with some sweetening of a Bortuzzo or a Sanford or a pick.

        In Army I trust…for now.

  3. I think so me team will get a nice deal with Vats or Demers

    Chiasson for $750K – $1M will be s good deal

    Would have liked Pens to have signed Duby instead of Domingue

    Agree Vlad trade pre season start now unlikely… sorry for your headache Iowa Prince

    Would still love a Vlad (50% retained ) for Zucker (50% retained) + Laffy + O’Connor trade to happen

    • YOU might like that from a Penguins’ perspective, Pengy, but it does absolutely nothing to make the Blues a better team. Journeymen hockey players are a dime a dozen and if, as you have said, Zucker is not a “team” individual why would St. Louis want to add that commodity – not to mention his offense hitting a brick wall – to their dressing room? They already turned their backs on one they had (Hoffman) whose offensive output had nevertheless remained pretty constant and decent.

      • I’d rather have zucker than taresenko right now.

      • Hi George

        I never said or inferred that Zucker was not a team individual

        As far as I can tell from reports…. He is liked and tries hard

        His drag on others production is not dissimilar to JJ’s

        Both tried hard, both liked; but unfortunately their performance on ice; dragged others down

        Zucker is not JJ by any stretch

        JJ cataclysmically dragged ALL stats down on ALL teamates

        Zucker drags down (to a much lesser extent) the stats if the higher end performers (top 6); effectively then having his “best” fit as W on 3rd line…. Where $5.5 M and his production; is overspent

        Unfortunately this is what is happening in Pitt; but was not the case as much with the Wild….. so a change if scenery is warranted; and he’ll likely imprive elsewhere

        Similarly Vlad has issues with Blues and is under the microscope there

        A flip of the two would, IMHO, increase productivity for both

        Pens would have to give up extra in the trade

        Laffy and prospect O’Connor is fair IMHO

    • Pengy,

      I think you’re bang on regarding Vatanen and Demers, I’m kind of hoping GMMB can get one.

      Erik Gustafsson didn’t play much with the Habs and had his defensive lapses but I was really surprised by how enthusiastic he was as a teammate. He’ll be a good fit somewhere.

    • @Pengy..Hextall that lazy ass is sitting doing nothing. Would love Vlady. Would have taken zbozak @ $750 000 (which he resigned in St. Louis) to hold down second center u til sid comesback.


      • Hi BnG

        I’m equally peeved at HexBurkie (I use that dual name as who knows which one; if either, are making decisions)

        $750 K for Boz….. instead of an offer by HexBurkie… Pens set to open season with

        Carter 1C; Blueger 2C (both far out of where they should be playing); and likely Rodrigues at 3C; ??? at 4C

  4. Mr Prince. Has there been any news on possible issues with Tarasenko shoulder lately? Otherwise, I don’t understand why folks keep saying he needs to come back and prove himself. He came back and played 24 games plus playoffs and WC. So, unless he’s had a setback, im assuming with a full offseason to get back to top conditioning and strength, there shouldn’t be as much speculation about his health. He was a 30 goal scorer before injury. Last surgery seems to finally corrected issues he had after 1st 2 surgeries. After adding Buchnevich and Saad (combined 10.3M cap hits) I don’t see Blues keeping him around. That shop has sailed no matter what Mngmt is saying publicly.

    • Slick,

      I have heard nothing except positive reports regarding Tarasenko’s shoulder. There have been ZERO setbacks, and his end of season/off season has gone well.

      I will admit that he was “out of hockey” for an extended time, and I’m sure that would, in itself, take time for conditioning and timing.

      Mr. P

  5. If I am Jim Benning, I would have a bottle of advil on my desk, at close reach.

    Quinn Hughes, offensively talented, defensive liability. Yes plus/minis reflects team as well as individual play, but – 34 over two seasons. Favourable comparisons to Makar are silly.

    Pettersson: gifted forward, continued injuries almost assured given his slight build.

    The agent for both says that of the two, a longer term for Hughes is being looked at. I hope for the Canucks that means Hughes is willing to sign for less than the hype. If I had to choose between which of the two I would commit to, it’s Pettersson.

    • I hope he doesn’t have to choose and gets them both under contract soon.

  6. To OTT: Thomas, Kostin & Tarasenko
    To STL: Tkachuk & Logan Brown

    hmm? anyone like?

    what would ya change?

    • Zucker, of course!

      • Second the motion!!

    • LOL. Yeah, sure. Forget the media angst – Tkachuk will soon be announced as having signed an 8-year $8.5 mil per deal and will be wearing a jersey with the C.

    • Hard pass. Let’s be real here. Supposing Tarasenko is healthy, he is going going to turn 30, only 2 years on contract, and plays a different game than thr Sens. Brady is a far more complete player. Tarasenko just has more offensive upside… but id still massively give the edge to Brady here.

      Brown stands head and feet both literally and talent wise above Kostin. Thomas hasn’t shown anything we don’t already get and then some in Pinto/Norris.

      So basically we flip a young winger who can score, plays with grit, and is our future captain. For a ? Health wise winger about to enter the downside of his career and two players you can argue we already have better versions of.

      Changes us from a Gap on RW to one on LW, and doesn’t address our need for another top forward or defenseman

      Blues take that deal in a heart beat and laugh while doing it.

      • Hey! Anything is possible. Ask Ryan O’Reilly.

    • Hater,

      I would probably at least listen if it’s Kyrou, Kostin, and Tarasenko.

      I want Thomas and the Blues to get to common ground.

      ps. I’d like a Thomas, Tkachuk, line together.


  7. Iowa Prince,

    Tarasenko’s name has been popping up all summer, talk about his shoulder, talk about his untradeable contract.
    Pundits keep repeating these things as if they were meaningful insights.

    What is Armstrong asking for him?

    What would it take to move him?

    • HF30,

      I don’t guess that I’ve ever read/heard Army’s “asking price”. What I know is that he does NOT want to retain any $$$s from Vladi’s contract as a part of the deal. I would sure think that would limit options. Armstrong can have a stubborn/competitive streak (ie. line in the sand)–which may be OK, but has certainly impacted other negotiations.


  8. Fyi….
    The Armstrongs are not related. Tarasenko is skating with teammates in St. Louis. Army will sit on tank until he proves what he can or cannot do. If his shoulder is 60% of what it was, and he can avoid a setback, he will score 20. A 20 goal scorer at 5.5 mil will look much more attractive in a trade than what he is now.

    • What everyone is forgetting, or leaving out, is the fact that Tank is the one who requested a trade out of St. Louis. Army is just trying to comply. Tank was pissed and felt slighted that Cryin Ryan was named team captain. I’m with Tank on this one. Make no wonder some of the other members of the leadership group opted to leave. O’Reilly isn’t half as good as he thinks he is.

      • Shoreorrpark–I like your fanciful appellations. Can you think of an apt one for a dog whose best friend is every dog in the Iditarod?

      • “Mush Puppy” is terrible, but it’s the best I can think of right now.
        I’m sorry to disappoint, Francis.
        I’ll give it some more thought though.

      • Pupsicles

      • ” O’Reilly isn’t half as good as he thinks he is.” You mean Ryan O’Reilly, right? The one who won the Conn Smythe in 2019. The only Blues player listed as one of the top 50 in the NHL? I don’t know how good he thinks he is but there are plenty of others who think he’s good.

  9. Exorbitant contracts and a flat cap have combined to produce some good players available at a realistic price, and others who are scrambling for jobs. At the same time, many teams that have had to shed these players because much of their cap space is tied up in a few stars are treading water. Could that indicate that it’s best to build a team by spreading cap money more evenly along a roster of hungry, hard-working, talented but not-so-glamorous players?

    Montreal’s highest paid skater this season is Brendan Gallagher, who at $6.5 million is paid 8% of the current cap and $1 million less than Shea Weber, the team’s highest paid skater last season. The Canadiens might have won the Cup last season if Tampa Bay hadn’t been allowed to add a $9.5 million player to its playoff roster.

    Perhaps, teams should consider dealing more players before they reach the age and point in their careers where they demand 10-million-dollar contracts with no-movement clauses. If that’s so, beware, the team that deals for Jack Eichel.

    • Just so I understand you’re comparing Gallagher to Kucherov. Gallagher is overpaid at 6.5. I take Kucherov at 9.5 all day. At least compare apples to apples when using salaries including when they signed there contracts. Gallagher is a middle guy who gets paid a high middle salary. Kucherov is a top level guy who’s underpaid and that’s only because Tampa has no tax. Montreals top guy makes 10.5 and he’s way overpaid compared to Valsleski just saying apples to apples. The point I’m trying to make is top level talent makes top level money and it rolls down from there. Montreal did great on the playoffs but without Covid they don’t even make the playoffs the last 2 years. I’m sure they would gladly take a top line center. Let’s see if they make the playoffs this year without any Covid interruptions.

      • Sorry, but you don’t understand, I didn’t compare Gallagher to Kucherov.

        However, the Lightning, minus Kucherov, entered the playoffs with Stampkos being their only skater making more than $8 million. That lends some backing to my proposition that cap money spread more evenly over a roster might result in a better team than when concentrated on a few players.

        If you can grasp that, then you understand.

    • Sometimes it all depends on who’s between the pipes. I know of a team that had the worst record in the league on 1/5/19, brought up their 4th string goalie named Binnington the next day and won the Stanley Cup.

    • Moneyball

  10. Francis S.

    By extension, being able to run four lines as opposed to leaning on just one is made possible when money is allocated as you mention.

    Much is made about Kucherov, cap, etc but the outstanding goaltending by Vasilvskiy (which is expected) and the outstanding play of their 3rd line is what set them apart in my opinion.

    • And all players on that Tampa 3rd line are gone (Coleman, Gourde, Goodrow) so we’ll see how the 2021-22 Tampa Bay Lightning fares.

  11. Tarasenko is skating and practicing daily with several Blues and other NHL players in St Louis. I’ve been to a couple and he looks happy and healthy. He and teammates seem to be getting along just fine.