SUNRISE, Fla. – How much longer will Vladimir Tarasenko be part of the St. Louis Blues? It’s a million-dollar question that seems tougher to determine day after day.
Tarasenko, one of the franchise’s most accomplished skaters, briefly escaped the reality of his uncertain future in St. Louis this weekend during NHL All-Star festivities in south Florida.
This weekend marks Tarasenko’s fourth All-Star nod and first since 2017. It proved encouraging in a largely-frustrating season for the 11-year veteran.
On Saturday, Tarasenko cruised through the first leg of the NHL All-Star Game with one goal and three assists, leading all Central Division teammates in the opening round. On Friday, he busted targets with authority in the “accuracy shooting” drill of the All-Star skills competition after overcoming a slow start. And hours before that, he seemed all smiles in a free skate with family members and close friends.
Many NHL teams will return to game action in the upcoming days, but that’s not the case for the Blues. In fact, St. Louis has another full week before its next game, which will be the team’s first in 12 days. The long wait clouds the reality that is Tarasenko’s ambiguous situation.
Tarasenko is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the season’s end unless a new contract moves forth with the Blues. His current eight-year deal is arguably one of the best investments in team history when factoring in the 2019 Stanley Cup and six 30-plus-goal seasons. His contract year has not quite met those standards, missing several weeks with a hand injury and on pace for his fewest points in a full season since 2014.
St. Louis slumped mightily going into the All-Star break and playoffs seem to be a long shot for the first time awhile. The Blues are eight games out of playoff position with many contenders around them holding more games in hand. The Blues seem almost certain to at least explore the seller’s market and see whether impending UFAs, like Tarasenko, Ryan O’Reilly and Ivan Barbashev, might net a return.
Earlier this week, he told The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford that there haven’t been any recent talks between Tarasenko and general manager Doug Armstrong on a new contract. Tarasenko also offered this quote on where he stands with the Blues:
“Even Vladdy don’t know the future of Vladdy. There is only one guy who knows more than me, and his name is Doug Armstrong. I think that’s the guy who you should talk about my future (with) the Blues.”
The NHL Trade Deadline is set for March 3. Ten games, and less than a calendar month, separtes the Blues from trade deadline, and perhaps some indication on their future vision with or without Tarasenko.