Blues Trade Vladimir Tarasenko To The Rangers
The St. Louis Blues traded winger Vladimir Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola to the New York Rangers in exchange for winger Sammy Blais, minor-league defenseman Hunter Skinner, a conditional first-round pick in 2023 and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2024.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Cap Friendly indicates the Blues retained 50 percent of Tarasenko’s $7.5 million cap hit ($3.75 million). The Blues will receive the latter of the Rangers’ 2023 first-round pick and the 2023 first-rounder they acquired from the Dallas Stars. If the Rangers make the playoffs in 2023, the fourth-rounder in 2024 becomes a third-round pick.
We shouldn’t be surprised that the Blues traded Tarasenko rather than re-sign the pending unrestricted free agent. The 30-year-old winger first surfaced in the rumor mill in July 2021 after it was revealed he requested a trade over his unhappiness with the medical treatment that he received from the Blues medical staff for a nagging shoulder injury.
The Blues couldn’t find any suitable trade offers and retained Tarasenko, who played well for them in 2021-22 with a career-best 82-point performance. However, it was rumored last summer that he hadn’t rescinded his trade request. His production is down from last season’s pace (29 points in 38 games) but that’s in part attributable to missing 13 games to illness and an injured hand.
The Rangers were among the recent rumored destinations for Tarasenko. They were lacking an established first-line right wing. A six-time 30-goal scorer, he should mesh well alongside Mika Zibanejad and Artemi Panarin on the Rangers’ top line. He could also be a good fit on the second line with Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck.
Mikkola, 26, is also due to become a UFA this summer. The 26-year-old is a third-pairing defenseman on a one-year, $1.9 million contract. He’ll provide the Rangers with some experienced depth down the stretch and in the playoffs, especially if injuries should strike their blueline.
Blais is returning to the Blues after being shipped to the Rangers in exchange for Buchenich in 2021. He suffered a serious knee injury last season that limited him to just 14 games and saw limited action in 40 games this season with the Blueshirts.
Skinner is a 21-year-old defenseman who was a fourth-round pick of the Rangers in 2019. Since 2020-21, he’s spent time with their AHL affiliate in Hartford and the ECHL with the Utah Grizzlies and Jacksonville Icemen.
The Tarasenko trade could be viewed as a roster teardown by the Blues but I consider it more of a retool.
They still have a decent core with Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Pavel Buchnevich, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, Brayden Schenn and Torey Krug. They could re-sign Ryan O’Reilly if he’s willing to accept a pay cut and a shorter-term contract. Meanwhile, the conditional picks from the Rangers can be put toward restocking their prospect pipeline.