Kings Should Have Tarasenko as a Top Trade Target

The Los Angeles King have been working the phones this offseason, already pulling off a significant deal in acquiring Viktor Arvidsson from the Nashville Predators. A trade like this means the Kings are ready to deal some of their future assets to get immediate help and take a step in becoming a much more competitive team as early as the 2021-22 season.

Viktor Arvidsson Nashville Predators
Former Nashville Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With recent news emerging that St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko has become available and requested a trade, it would be a no-brainer for the Kings to jump in the opportunity to acquire a sniper of that caliber. The team is in a good spot to make a deal and reap the rewards of having a top-end talent be made available.

Kings Cap Situation

Heading into the offseason, the Kings are one of the teams with the most cap flexibility, with a total of $13,690,412 in cap space. The extra cap space is the first thing any team looking to acquire Tarasenko would need considering they would likely have to take on all of his $7.5 million cap hit for the next two years.

Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Tarasenko scored 14 points through 24 games in the 2020-21 season. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

The Kings don’t have much heavy lifting to do this offseason regarding re-signing free agents with only two players needing new contracts as restricted free agents that are arbitration-eligible. The Kings have to make decisions on forwards Matt Luff and Andreas Athanasiou, both of which would not break the bank to bring back, leaving lots of room to add pieces.

The fact of the matter is there is a limited amount of teams that have the available amount of cap space without making other moves to clear some room to make a trade of this stature. If St. Louis wants to move on from Tarasenko, not retaining salary in a deal would be ideal, considering they will have to find another player to replace him with. Gaining salary cap flexibility for St. Louis would be an important part of the deal, which should give the Kings the edge in a trade.

Heading to Hollywood

Even if the Blues do find a trade partner, Tarasenko would have to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the trade. The California coast would be an ideal landing spot for the 29-year-old Russian after we’ve seen other Russian players like Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin sign in the always sunny Florida and bright lights of New York.

Related: Kings Don’t Need Tarasenko With Arvidsson on the Roster

Considering the location of the Kings it would be hard to imagine Tarasenko not being willing to waive his no-move clause to join the team as Los Angeles is one of the most prime destinations in terms of lifestyle in the entire league.

Fit With the Kings

If we dive deeper into Tarasenko and a potential fit with the Kings, we see that despite his recent injury history, which includes multiple shoulder surgeries, the fit for both sides is a good one. While the Kings have a surplus of young talent and potential by means of their strong prospect pool, they lack the top-end talent that they used to have upfront aside from Anze Kopitar and newly acquired Arvidsson.

Bringing in an impact scorer like Tarasenko would immediately give the team a lethal first line, bolster their powerplay, and allow the current players on the roster to be slotted in more suitable roles on the team. If GM Rob Blake did pull the trigger on a deal without giving up much in terms of their active roster the team’s forward depth becomes much stronger.

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Viktor ArvidssonAnze KopitarVladimir Tarasenko
Alex IafalloGabriel VilardiDustin Brown
Vladimir Tkachev/Carl GrundstromBlake LizotteTrevor Moore
Brendan LemieuxJaret Anderson-DolanAustin Wagner

Having Tarasenko on a line with an elite passer like Kopitar would be a great starting point and allow players like Alex Iafallo and Dustin Brown to slide into more suitable roles. A move of this caliber would also provide a boost to their powerplay that ranked 19th in the league producing at 18.9%.

Impact on the Future

While there is some risk on taking on a forward who is coming off major shoulder surgeries who takes up a good chunk of cap space for the next two seasons, there is not a great risk in making a trade of this stature. Bringing in NHL players will help keep the young prospects in the organization hungry and create a winning culture within the team.

Vladimir Tarasenko St. Louis Blues
Vladimir Tarasenko has 78 games of playoff experience (Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Tarasenko’s contract is also manageable for the next two seasons because the team does not have to deal with too many of their own free agent signings that will be expensive to re-sign as most of them are restricted free agents. With Brown’s contract also coming off the books at the end of the 2021-22 season, the team will be able to maintain cap flexibility as his $5,875,000 AAV will be expired.

Dustin Brown Los Angeles Kings
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This means the Kings will already have a replacement on the top line right wing spot rather than having to rush a prospect to make that leap or potentially overpaying in free agency. It will allow prospects coming in to play more sheltered minutes on a second-line role and not go against teams shut down defense pairs.

Risk Is Worth the Reward

Blake has done a great job in stockpiling elite young prospects in the organization and the team is now ready to switch gears from rebuilding to competing. Adding veteran pieces and NHL-ready players is part of the next step for the organization to create a winning team.

Rob Blake
Los Angeles Kings General Manager, Rob Blake (Getty Images)

Being aggressive and going after pieces like Arvidsson shows Blake believes this team is ready for that next step and with the amount of young center depth coming through the pipeline, the wing spots are areas where the team can add to boost the team’s offense. Ultimately the risk is worth the reward in acquiring Tarasenko, considering his goalscoring upside, the number of prospects the team could use to acquire him in a potential trade, and the limited term he has left on his deal if he doesn’t return to his old form.

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