Vladimir Tarasenko wants out of St. Louis, and the Blues likely are going to have no shortage of suitors.
The Boston Bruins probably should be one of them.
Amid a reported erosion of trust between the two sides as to how to approach the winger’s shoulder injuries, Tarasenko reportedly has expressed the desire to be traded by St. Louis.
From a pure on-ice perspective, Tarasenko makes a ton of sense for the Bruins. He’s an elite-level right winger, a type of player that has eluded the Bruins outside of David Pastrnak. Tarasenko is coming off a miserable couple of seasons, but that is far from the player he historically has been. From 2014 through the 2018-19 campaigns, he never scored fewer than 33 goals and 66 points, even eclipsing the 40-goal threshold in 2015-16.
The defense isn’t great, but with that kind of production, you’ll take the risk.
The Bruins have to determine if they believe Tarasenko is capable of returning to his pre-2019 form. He’s played just 42 games the last two campaigns between the regular season and playoffs, and in that time he just has nine goals and 17 assists.
Considering he comes with a $7.5 million cap hit, no team is going to want to trade for that player.
But it becomes way more palatable if a team believes he wasn’t allowed to do what was medically necessary because of disagreements with the Blues, and that is what torpedoed his ability. Perhaps with the right medical care, he can return to the 70-plus point player he has been.
In such a case, a $7.5 million cap hit doesn’t sound all that bad. It’s still a risk, but a justifiable one.
There’s reason to believe a trade to the Bruins could have the “Taylor Hall Effect,” if you will, on Tarasenko — provided he’s healthy. Hall seemed to appreciate that he didn’t have to be the main guy when he came to Boston, and that the stardom was spread out. The Blues work Tarasenko quite a bit, especially in Craig Berube’s system.
If the Bruins acquired the 29-year-old, he would likely go on the second line behind first-unit right winger David Pastrnak. That also would allow the Bruins some flexibility with Craig Smith, who could become a high-end third line right winger.
It’s also worth mentioning that Tarasenko’s contract is up after the 2022-23 season. According to B’s president Cam Neely, both Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand have told Bruins brass they want to take another shot at the Cup with this core group of players. Acquiring Tarasenko would probably have a long-term impact, but if the Bruins want to chase a championship now, then having two years of the Russian would be a move that shows they are all-in for a little longer.
If the Blues are looking to move Tarasenko quickly, then it might not work out for the Bruins, who have to be mindful of how they use their cap space with David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly, among others, all hitting unrestricted free agency. But if the expansion draft passes, free agency opens and the initial flurry of moves get taken care of, then it seems like something the Bruins could revisit if they have the cap space.
That might not be agreeable for the Blues, who undoubtedly would want to get that cap hit off the books prior to the start of free agency.
Point being, there are a lot of moving pieces here that need to fall perfectly into place for a Bruins-Tarasenko thing to actually come to pass. If nothing else though, at his best he represents a good fit for Boston and would be worth the potential risk.