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Tuchman: Is Valdimir Tarasenko Worth the Risk for the Isles?

The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Montreal Canadiens, and with that, we are officially into the offseason. And with the offseason, there’s always the hope among fans that the Islanders will make some “fun” moves. Can g.m. Lou Lamoriello pick up a new toy for Barry Trotz to deploy and for us to cheer on? 

According to numerous sources and The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, Vladimir Tarasenko has reportedly requested a trade. How convenient. He certainly qualifies as “fun” or at least he did. Tarasenko has a full NTC (no-trade clause) so he can essentially choose where he wants to go. But if he makes the list too small, he risks not being moved. 

The Isles are a team that is linked because apparently they are one of the teams Tarasenko will approve a trade to. Frankly, the Islanders could certainly use the scoring help. Tarasenko had 218 goals in only 531 games and before his shoulder injuries; he had five straight 30-goal seasons (with one 40-goal campaign in the middle).  A healthy Tarasenko on Mathew Barzal’s wing would have most Islander fans salivating. 

So, this is a no brainer, right? 

Not so fast. You’ll notice in the previous paragraph, I mentioned “before his shoulder injuries” … Since the shoulder woes, Tarasenko has 7 goals in 34 games and he’s had three surgeries on the same shoulder in the span of 28 months. Combine that with the fact, he turns 30 in December and costs 7.5M against the cap, and you’ll quickly realize this isn’t remotely close to a no-brainer. 

In addition, the Blues aren’t enamored with the idea of giving him away. Coming off three surgeries, and with that cap hit, I’m of the opinion that St. Louis should be essentially giving him away and that will ultimately be the case if they want to move him. 

Before the Islanders can think about what to trade for him, let’s first unwrap the idea of Tarasenko in an Isles jersey. Is it a good idea? Is this someone Lou should target? Is he worth the risk?

Who was Tarasenko before the injuries?  Per Hockey Viz, we can examine Tarasenko’s 5v5 impact. You’ll see from the below chart, he was an absolute monster before the injuries. 

 

 

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The sample size after the injuries is so small (around 30 games), I’m not comfortable coming to any conclusion of who Tarasenko is currently. He’s not 24 anymore, but he’s also not 35.

At just 30 years-old, you’d imagine he’d still be 80-90% of the player he was IF healthy. I’m not expecting him to repeat his +22.8% xGF from 2014-15, but if he could be a +13% xGF type of player, his impact on this team would be enormous.

The first question is very simple. Is he healthy? How likely is it that he’ll stay healthy? I’m a gambler, not a doctor. If I’m acquiring Tarasenko, I need to be fairly certain he’s good to go. The other question is of course, what would it cost to acquire him? Who would Lamoriello not be able to sign because of that 7.5m cap hit?

So, for argument’s sake, let’s assume our doctors give Lou the thumbs up. There’s zero chance I’m moving a young player who’s slotted to be a regular in the lineup – the risks are just too great and I don’t think the Blues have any leverage. I read Arthur Staple’s article where he suggested trading Anthony Beauvillier in a package for Tarasenko and I think that’s a huge overpay.  As I mentioned earlier, I know the Blues don’t want to give him away, but to me, this isn’t an ideal situation for St. Louis. If they are hell bent on trading him, they may have to take the best of a few bad offers.

If I’m the Islanders, I’m offering Jordan Eberle ($5.5m AAV) and maybe a Kieffer Bellows/Otto Koivula package. At 7.5M AAV, the Islanders will have to do some heavy lifting just to make the salary work, but by trading Eberle — and maybe Nick Leddy going to Seattle — they can take on Tarasenko’s hefty salary. 

This is the kind of high risk/high reward move I’m not sure Lou wants to make.  If Tarasenko is healthy and regains the magic he had back in 2017-18, there’s no doubt, he’d be a huge shot in the arm. This Isles team could win it all. BUT,  If he’s in and out of the lineup and somewhat ineffective, this could derail the team. Using that precious dough on a player who isn’t performing could destroy whatever chances this team had. 

As for me, Tarasenko was so productive when healthy. He’s certainly someone you need to look into. If the doctors give me the okay and the cost isn’t prohibitive, I think he’s good enough to warrant the risk.

What would you do if you were calling the shots?

 

 

 

 

Follow David on Twitter at @TuckonSports

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