The 2022 MLB Home Run Derby took place on Monday, and it got me in a baseball mood. The New York Islanders’ offseason so far has been similar to what we have seen from New York Yankees outfielder Joey Gallo: swings and misses.
Trading is the name of the Lou Lamoriello game, and I want to revisit a storyline from the summer of 2021, in which the New York Islanders, the Seattle Kraken, and the rest of the NHL missed out on a glorious opportunity to acquire St. Louis Blues superstar forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
In 2020-21, Tarasenko only played in 24 games due to a second shoulder injury and third shoulder surgery. His first game of the 2020-21 season — and first since October 2019 — came in March, two months after the season began.
Despite his return, Tarasenko’s health remained a major question mark. Tarasenko had lost trust in the Blues, as he believed they had failed him in the handling of his surgery. That led to him requesting a trade and submitting a list of 10 teams he would be willing to go to.
Once Tarasenko asked for a trade, it seemed that the elite forward would be playing somewhere else in 2021-22. In fact, there was so much concern about the injury that St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong left Tarasenko unprotected for the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. But the Kraken wouldn’t take him.
Tarasenko’s value had never been lower. The health question mark made him a high-risk, high-reward option that every team passed on. Also, Armstrong clearly was not loving the return for Tarasenko, or he would have pulled the trigger.
The New York Islanders were one of the teams on Tarasenko’s list, per The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.
Both New York and the Blues were in the midst of quiet offseasons as many believed something was cooking, but the stove was off. And then, the 2021-22 season began, and Tarasenko bounced back.
In 75 games, Tarasenko scored 34 goals with 48 assists for the first 82-point campaign of his NHL career. He led St. Louis in scoring but ranked sixth in average ice time per game (16:55) amongst forwards. In 12 playoff games, Tarasenko notched six goals and three assists.
Tarasenko never officially rescinded his trade request and now his value is higher than ever. But is Armstrong interested in moving the elite winger?
With the departure of David Perron and his 27 goals to the Detroit Red Wings, Armstrong may not be as inclined to move Tarasenko. It might make more sense for him to wait until the 2022-23 trade deadline, as if Tarasenko has another dynamite year, the value will be at its peak and some playoff team, or playoff hopeful team, will be willing to give the Blues anything they want.
The 30-year-old Tarasenko has one year remaining on his deal that carries a cap hit of $7.5 million. If an extension is a possibility with the Blues, then that would remove Tarasenko’s name from the rumor mill. But again, he still has his trade request in.
Although there is no report on if Tarasenko has updated his trade list, if the Islanders are still on it, would a trade to Long Island now be worth it?
The Blues, like the Colorado Avalanche in their quest to bring back Nazem Kadri, have cap issues of their own; Per CapFriendly, the Blues only have $625,000 in cap space as of July 19. Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, and Ryan O’Reilly will need extensions, and freeing themselves of Tarasenko’s $7.5 million would go a long way. Plus, Armstrong may be looking for picks, and with just how deep the 2023 NHL Draft will be, draft capital is a hot commodity.
New York is likely to have seven picks in the 2023 NHL Draft. The Arizona Coyotes receive the Islanders’ third-round selection only if Andrew Ladd does not play a game for them in 2022-23, whether it be due to LTIR or retirement.
Also, given the information out of Calgary that Matthew Tkachuk will not be signing with the Calgary Flames long-term, he will be dealt sooner than later. Tkachuk is from St. Louis, and if he does want to play for his hometown team, Tarasenko could be what we call a cap casualty.
Earlier this offseason, the Minnesota Wild sent Kevin Fiala to the Los Angeles Kings for a first-round pick and a second-round prospect. Tarasenko is likely to command more, but not much more, as the Islanders would have to part ways with their first overall pick in 2023, along with the likes of Aatu Räty (top prospect).
Like with Fiala, Tarasenko’s trade would need to come with an extension in place.
Could that be enough to get the Russian to Long Island? Would the Islanders even be willing to move Räty?
The biggest issue with New York is the cap situation, as the team would need a player to leave to bring another one in.
Like a broken record here at NYI Hockey Now, Josh Bailey’s $5 million cap hit remains an issue, but an issue that could be solved with a few picks packaged together to teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Seattle Kraken, and even the Chicago Blackhawks, all teams that have cap space.
The New York Islanders did not make a splash, yet in free agency are going all-in on Johnny Gaudreau, and Lamoriello’s plan was always to improve via trades. Their offense is in need of that perenial goal scorer, now than ever with Mathew Barzal entering the last year of his contract.