The day has finally come for the St. Louis Blues to trade Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s a bittersweet moment in franchise history, but it’s been boiling for a few years now. The New York Rangers acquired Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola in exchange for defensive prospect Hunter Skinner, forward Sammy Blais, a 2023 conditional first-round pick, and a 2024 conditional fourth-round pick.
The Blues retained 50 percent of Tarasenko’s salary for the 2022-23 season. The 2023 first-round pick will be either the Rangers’ or Dallas Stars‘ pick that the Rangers own, and the Blues will get the later of the two picks. The 2024 fourth-round pick becomes a third-round pick if the Rangers make the playoffs this season. It’s likely going to be a third because the Rangers should make the playoffs easily.
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Tarasenko played parts of 11 seasons with the Blues and is one of the best goal scorers in franchise history. With that being said, it was time for both sides to move on without each other. The Rangers have been a great fit since the start of trade talks involving Tarasenko. The return for the Blues in this deal was interesting.
The Return is Better Than Expected
Hear me out on this part. The Blues got a first-round pick in a deep draft for two rentals. Albeit, two rentals that were never going to re-sign with the Blues. While Blais got hurt and didn’t play well with the Rangers, he can provide the Blues with some nice depth. He’s familiar with the organization and was loved by fans when he was in St. Louis before the Pavel Buchnevich trade.
There was no guarantee that the Blues could even fetch a first-round pick for Tarasenko as he hasn’t been great overall this season. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong needs to keep compiling draft picks for this deep class in the 2023 Draft. In terms of defensive prospect Skinner, he was a fourth-round pick in the 2019 Draft by the Rangers. He’s still only 21 years old and gives the Blues a right-handed-shot defenseman in the system. The Blues could have gotten a more highly touted prospect for Tarasenko if you’re overvaluing his trade value. He’s a rental that has 10 goals in 38 games this season.
I think the return is better than most people think. The key to any deal for Tarasenko was getting a first-round pick. Armstrong got that and a bit more. I’m not saying this trade is bad for the Rangers, but it’s fine on the Blues’ end. I actually think this is a good trade for both sides given the direction of each team.
Tarasenko Fills the Rangers’ Biggest Need
It’s weird that the All-Star Game was the last time that Tarasenko wore the blue note on his sweater, but that’s the reality with him heading to New York. He’s a terrific fit for the Rangers and he now gets to play with a close friend and superstar Artemi Panarin. A big part of Tarasenko’s return to brilliance was the passing ability of Robert Thomas. Panarin does all of that and more as one of the best passers in the NHL. There won’t be many more dangerous top lines than the one with Tarasenko, Panarin, and Mika Zibanejad.
As for Mikkola’s spot in this trade, he’ll join a solid defensive group in New York. They waived defenseman Libor Hajek to make room for Mikkola. He is a solid defensive defenseman but doesn’t provide much more than that. The Blues were not going to re-sign him this summer anyway. The Blues needed to get assets in return for both Tarasenko and Mikkola, so this works out well on that front.
Only the Beginning for the Blues as Sellers
This is the first of multiple trades to come for the Blues at the trade deadline. They’ve made it clear that they are sellers. Players like Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev, and others will be next. The Blues are going to trade at least two more rentals of the three remaining, in my view. Getting the Tarasenko deal done first was important, and they’ll be able to fetch a solid return for O’Reilly as well. If anything, the Tarasenko deal proves that they can get a good return for a rental.
I wouldn’t rule out the Blues looking to make trades for other players that have term left on their deals either. They should be in full sell mode right now. I think some of the other trades could come in the offseason. Whether it’s Torey Krug or another veteran, they could be traded after this season.
Grading the Trade
Blues’ Grade: B
Rangers’ Grade: A-
It’d be hard for me to give the Blues a better grade here, but it’s fairly close. I think both teams did well in this deal. Mikkola is a solid player, but his analytics are ugly this season. That’s also a reflection of the team’s performance. The Rangers have one of the best top lines in the league now. This is a good chance for Tarasenko to win his second Stanley Cup. Blues fans should be rooting for him after everything he gave to the organization. I know I will always be a fan of Tarasenko.
At the end of the day, both teams got what they wanted and needed in this trade. The Blues got a first-round pick and more for two rentals, while the Rangers got a third-pairing defenseman and added a terrific goal scorer. This a good start to the retool for Armstrong and the Blues.