Oilers Should Pursue Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko

As the most important Edmonton Oilers’ offseason since 2005 gets underway, following the awarding of the Stanley Cup to the Tampa Bay Lightning, some interesting stories are beginning to develop. Perhaps the most intriguing is the unexpected trade request made by longtime St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. While those close to the Blues might have known of his displeasure with his team, those issues certainly never reached the volume of the Buffalo Sabre’s Jack Eichel’s similar complaints. Unhappy with the Blues’ handling of his ongoing injury situation, he’s looking for more than just a second opinion, but an entirely new team.

San Jose Sharks Brent Burns St. Louis Blues Vladimir Tarasenko
St. Louis Blues’ winger Vladimir Tarasenko falls to the ice attempting to avoid a check from Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. (AP Photo/Josie Lepe)

Injury management is a tricky thing. There are real and constant demands on a National Hockey League player during the recovery process and balancing one’s health with the timeline of returning to play is tough. The repeated nature of Tarasenko’s shoulder injury and associated surgery are a concern, and it’s reasonable to ask if the treatment provided by the Blues was adequate given how the issue hasn’t gone away. Now three seasons removed from their Stanley Cup run, a dismantling of the championship roster seemed likely anyway, and it could work out to the benefit of the Oilers.

Shoulder Injuries Are Surprisingly Common in the NHL

Every NHL season, more than one or two players miss time due to shoulder injuries. The mechanics of hockey are unnatural, with a long stick acting as a lever, multiplying pressure and impacts on the joint itself. All it takes is an off-balance swing, a sudden impact with the boards, or an awkward fall during a fight, and a player’s shoulder can suffer pain, tears, or dislocations. Severity and time missed vary greatly, and the fact that Tarasenko missed large portions of the past two seasons has to be a concern.

Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, shown here in the moments following a devastating knee injury, showed that it’s possible to return even better after rehab is complete. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

Edmonton has been listed as an ideal destination for the Russian winger, and there is no question that a healthy Tarasenko would be a great addition to the Oiler’s roster. His deadly accurate shot and top-notch offensive awareness would be a great addition to either of the top two lines alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl. However, if his body can’t fully recover, that amazing release and accuracy might not be there, and the undoubtedly high cost of obtaining him will hurt Edmonton’s chances at threatening for a Cup.

Price Needs to Be Right For a Trade to Work

At a cap hit of $7.5 million for the next two seasons, adding Tarasenko to the Oilers’ roster will mean other pieces have to move. At least one buyout looks likely in the coming days, but with other important holes to fill on their roster, it might make sense for general manager Ken Holland to drive a hard bargain. The uncertainty of Tarasenko’s recovery legitimately lowers his value, as does the fact that everyone knows he has asked for a trade. Could Holland ask St. Louis to take back a bad contract as a part of the deal that gets McDavid his trigger man?

James Neal Edmonton Oilers Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings
Could a player like James Neal of the Edmonton Oilers be included in a trade for Tarasenko? (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Another factor that can’t be ignored is Tarasenko’s no-trade clause. While he obviously wants to be traded, the NTC gives him absolute control on potential landing spots. Historically Edmonton hasn’t been high on players’ lists as far as a destination or team to play for, and it’s meant that the Oilers’ free agent signing history isn’t filled with big names, nor is their success rate high when attempting to convince folks to waive a NTC. Today’s Oilers, despite their unceremonious exit from the playoffs, should be more attractive to a player like Tarasenko, who is just at, or past, the peak of his career and likely looking to find a path to another Cup victory.

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There is significant risk in going after this particular player, but at 29, he’s far from over the hill and a full recovery isn’t out of the question. Picturing an Oilers power play that includes McDavid, Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujärvi and a healthy Tarasenko would drive fear into opposing defenders and goalies alike. And while he’s not the only option out there, if Holland doesn’t land a big fish in free agency, it could be a bet worth making. What would you do? Leave a comment below.

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