What the Rangers, Blues get in big Vladimir Tarasenko trade

In the five-season window from 2014-15 through 2018-19, Vladimir Tarasenko was one of the NHL’s top goal scorers. In that time his 182 goals ranked third among all players in the league, one behind John Tavares and 54 behind Alex Ovechkin. Only Ovechkin had more even strength goals.

His 2019-20 season was cut short after 10 games when he dislocated his shoulder and needed surgery. He did return for four games in the August bubble playoffs, but didn’t look the same and failed to register a point. He aggravated the shoulder in that return and needed another surgery on it that off-season — his third in less than three years.

His recovery from that surgery delayed his 2020-21 season start until March, and then he mustered just four goals in 24 games. There was some question if he’d ever be the same player, and the Blues even left him exposed to Seattle in the expansion draft, but the Kraken passed on Tarasenko for Vince Dunn.



Vladimir Tarasenko, RW

2023 first-round pick (conditional)

Niko Mikkola, D

2024 fourth-round pick (conditional)

Sammy Blais, LW

Hunter Skinner, D

That off-season Tarasenko’s surgeon, Dr. Peter Millett, insisted Tarasenko was determined and that his shoulder was “rock solid.”

“I am confident he will be ready to play and that he will make a big impact for his team,” Millett told The Athletic in July 2021.

And he was right. Tarasenko started the 2021-22 season on time and returned to form with a 34-goal performance.

Through the injuries and struggles, though, Tarasenko requested a trade from St. Louis, which finally came Thursday. Tarasenko, like the rest of the Blues, doesn’t have the same numbers as last season (10 goals in 38 games), but if you surround him with a better fit, there’s no reason to believe the 31-year-old can’t still score at a 35- to 40-goal pace.

The Rangers might be that perfect fit.

You see, Tarasenko arrived in the NHL in 2013 and right away he pushed the organization to sign his friend and former teammate Artemi Panarin. At that point, Panarin was an 18-point scorer (in 43 games) in the KHL as a 22-year-old and still three years away from signing an NHL contract. According to Panarin’s agent, the Blues asked about Panarin, but weren’t one of the more aggressive teams to pursue him. So Panarin, as a UFA, wound up signing in Chicago.

“Instead of giving [Tarasenko] $8 million, we should have hired him as a scout,” former Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said in 2016, when Panarin was well on his way to winning the Calder Trophy. “They’re best buds. They played in the world juniors together, they played on lines together. We talked about [Panarin] and everybody said, ‘He’s a pretty small guy.’”

It seems likely the Rangers will now try Tarasenko on the right side of Panarin’s line, with the team’s leading goal scorer, Mika Zibanejad, down the middle. Panarin is one of the NHL’s top playmakers — only Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have more assists than him over the past four years — and the hope is that he can help Tarasenko back to the level of production he recovered to last season.

The Blues retained 50 per cent of his expiring contract, but this deal probably removes the Rangers from the running on Timo Meier or Patrick Kane. New York was connected to some of the bigger names on this year’s trade market, even though they have some potentially big contracts to get signed this off-season — including breakout defenceman K’Andre Miller, Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil.

Those contract situations were never going to stop the Rangers from getting engaged in the trade market, though, as they are all-in as one of the East’s top Stanley Cup contenders, with the expectation others will buy big, too.

“I think they’re going to go big or at least try to,” Elliotte Friedman said on The Jeff Marek Show Thursday, shortly before this trade was announced. “I believe they’re in on Meier, I just have no idea on how they can sign him. I wonder if the Rangers will be one of those teams whether it’s Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, or a guy like Meier, where they just say let’s go for it this year and we’ll worry about the summer in the summer.”

Tarasenko was the crown jewel of this deal, but New York also acquired Niko Mikkola, a 6-foot-4, 209-pound physical blue liner who led all Blues defenders in hits and shorthanded ice time per game. He’s also on an expiring contract at $1.9 million, and is UFA-eligible.

St. Louis re-acquired Sammy Blais, prospect Hunter Skinner and conditional draft picks. The 2023 first-round pick they get will be the lower of Dallas’ and New York’s (so the Rangers still have a first-rounder in 2023) and the 2024 fourth-rounder will become a third if the Rangers make the playoffs.

With scouting analysis on what both the Rangers and Blues got in the trade, we turn to Jason Bukala of The Pro Hockey Group:


The trade between the Rangers and the Blues, when dissected, is a sound hockey trade for both teams.

The Rangers improve their roster without having to subtract anyone. Tarasenko has had a down year in St Louis – along with most of their roster – but has plenty of playoff experience and knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. He’s scored 41 goals in 90 playoff games over the course of his career. If you go by the mantra “whoever received the best player in the trade wins the trade” the Rangers win it with the addition of Tarasenko. Special teams are always important at playoff time and Tarasenko adds another dangerous element to one of the Rangers’ power-play units.

Don’t overlook the addition of Niko Mikkola. The rangy defender plays a very simple game. He won’t bring a ton offensively, but he defends with purpose. He was averaging 17 minutes of ice time in St Louis, with all of his minutes coming at even strength and the penalty kill. He was third on the Blues with 68 shot blocks and 96 hits. You can never have enough defencemen come playoffs. He’s a sneaky add for the Rangers in this deal. Mikkola’s contract also expires at the conclusion of this season.


Sammy Blais goes back to the Blues, who drafted him in 2014. He was a depth forward in New York. Blais produced 12 goals and 14 assists in his last 76 games with the Blues before ending up in New York as part of the Pavel Buchnevich trade in 2021. He’s on an expiring contract and will be auditioning for a new deal down the stretch.

The draft picks have conditions, but the bottom line is the Blues will end up with an extra late-first-round pick this season and very likely an extra third-round pick in 2024. The extra first-round pick in the – very deep – 2023 draft is significant.

Hunter Skinner is a right-shot defenceman who was skating in Hartford (AHL). He’s a depth add in this deal. Skinner has size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) but has had a difficult time gaining any sort of traction in his career to date.


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