Vladimir Tarasenko, a veteran presence with the St. Louis Blues, was left exposed to the NHL Seattle Kraken’s expansion draft, which takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN2. Tarasenko is not the only notable Blues player left available in the expansion draft, as Vince Dunn, a restricted free agent defenseman and Jaden Schwartz, an unrestricted free agent forward, join Tarasenko on the exposed list.
Tarasenko was a vital part of the Blues’s Stanley Cup victory in 2019, scoring 11 goals and collecting 17 points during 26 games, leading the NHL during the 2019 postseason with 90 shots on goal. Tarasenko is a noted scorer, playing five seasons where he scored more than 30 goals, including the 2015-16 season when Tarasenko scored 40 goals. Those are very good marks for the NHL, especially in an era when 50 or so goals seems to be the ceiling.
Yet Tarasenko has spent the last two seasons mainly on injured reserve, collecting just seven goals the past two years between a combined 34 games. He hasn’t been at the scoring level he was before injuries started to rack up, but Tarasenko is still able to collect points, with 24 in those same 34 games, seeing more consistency in his playmaking.
The Kraken are now able to select Tarasenko in the expansion without giving up any assets, and could either use him as a player to build the franchise around or retain some of Tarasenko’s $7.5 million dollar hit against the salary cap and trade Tarasenko for better assets, something the Blues should have been unable to do.
But by protecting Ivan Barbashev, a 25-year-old center who only scored 12 points in 38 games last season instead of Tarasenko, the Blues are essentially giving up on getting assets back for Tarasenko. With teams in the market for a player like Tarasenko, the Blues should have been able to get something back for the player, even if he is currently a question mark in terms of value. That return may instead now go to the Kraken.
The same problem is faced with Dunn, who has been in trade rumors for almost two years. The Blues opted to protect Justin Faulk, Colton Parayko and Torey Krug in the expansion draft, which makes some sense, but it leaves Dunn, a 24-year-old defenseman, also available for free. Dunn is a defenseman who can play in most teams’ top fours and is still young, which makes him a valuable asset in the NHL. The Blues also should have been able to collect something for him, but by leaving him as another option for the Kraken, the Blues could also be giving him away for free. There’s also some speculation that both players could end up with the Kraken.
Schwartz is another veteran presence at forward that was exposed in the expansion draft. The Blues are not alone in leaving a fan favorite currently in free agency available, as the Washington Capitals exposed captain Alex Ovechkin, but there is an assumption that the Capitals have an agreement with Ovechkin already in place and Ovechkin has spent his entire career with the Capitals, winning the Stanley Cup in 2018. That may not be the same case with Schwartz, as although Schwartz has spent his entire career in St. Louis, he may not be as hesitant to sign a contract somewhere else.
Schwartz is still just 29 years old and scored 57 points in 71 games last season in 2019-20 and 21 points in 40 games last season. There are not many 50-point players available to the Kraken, and they could easily opt to use their pick from the Blues to have more time negotiating a contract with Schwartz.
While Schwartz may be headed somewhere else anyway this summer, the Blues’ inability to get a trade done before the expansion draft roster freeze on July 17 is a bad look. Getting assets back instead of losing either Tarasenko or Dunn for free would have been a much better move for the Blues, as both players still have value to teams. Now, the Kraken may reap the benefits instead.