Tarasenko makes first comments, proclaims he is
"happy to help (the Blues) win Stanley Cup this year"
By LOUIE KORAC
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- As Vladimir Tarasenko walked into a crowded room at his introductory press conference, the 20-year-old was starry-eyed and in awe.
The Blues' 2010 first round pick will need some getting used to press conferences and the lifestyle of being a NHL player and living in North America, but the first steps have been taken. Getting the 20-year-old Tarasenko here and becoming acclimated with his new teammates are the first steps, ones he was finally willing to take after leaving more money to play in the NHL.
Tarasenko, who was the 16th pick in 2010 and two spots after teammate Jaden Schwartz, totalled 100 points in 176 career games in the KHL spanning four seasons. The last two were spent playing with Sibir (Novosibirsk) and SKA (St. Petersburg).
(Photo by Mark Buckner/St. Louis Blues)
Blues GM Doug Armstrong (left) and Vladimir Tarasenko hold up the
new jersey for Tarasenko at his introductory press conference Thursday.
But after playing a game of tug-o-war with St. Petersburg officials and negotiating with Blues general manager Doug Armstrong, Tarasenko felt like the time was right to jump across the Atlantic Ocean and play in what he called the best league in the world despite the very strong possibility that the NHL will see another lockout when the current collecitve bargaining agreement is set to expire Sept. 15.
"I am very excited to be here in St. Louis to be playing for the St. Louis Blues," Tarasenko said through a translator, Irina Sandler of the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. "I am happy to help the team win the Stanley Cup this year.
"I have received very good experience in the last two years in the KHL, and I believe this is the right time for me. I am ready to play in the best league in the world."
The Blues, who finished with 109 points at 49-22-11 and reached the second of the Stanley Cup playoffs a season ago, see Tarasenko -- nicknamed 'Vova' or 'Vladi' -- penciled in among their top nine forwards. Armstrong also believes the time is right to make the transition.
"We believe and Vladi believes that he's accomplished all the things necessary to become a player in the NHL," Armstrong said. "I know in talking to him over the last couple years, spending time with he and his (North American) agent (Mike Liut). Everyone felt that the time was right for him to come over. We're very excited to have him here.
"We think he has the chance to be a good player on a very good team. He's not someone that we expect to come in here and re-invent the wheel. We're not there now. Because of the great work that the players have done last year winning the division, getting 109 points ... we're just looking for another compliment player [to come] in here to play. There's no pressure on Vladi to be something that he can't be. We're going to allow him to develop at his own time and come along at his own pace. When we signed him, we believed that he was NHL-ready. As I said to him before, now it's up to him to prove that. There's going to be great competition for ice time on this roster, and Vladi's excited -- through out conversations -- to fight for that ice."
(Photo by Mark Buckner/St. Louis Blues)
Vladimir Tarasenko listens to questions at his
introductory press conference Thursday.
"I am playing for the best league in the world and I have seen my current team members on TV and have never played with them," said Tarasenko, who followed Blues players through news reports and video clips on the internet. "Now I have an opportunity to play with them and learn from them.
"My ambition is to do the best I can to help the team and also to prove to myself that I am capable of playing with the best players in the world. ... I am thrilled to be here."
Tarasenko may be here now, but there is the possibility that he could return to Russia should there be no hockey in the NHL. There's the option of playing with the Blues' AHL affiliate in Peoria, but the difference in salary will be too great to pass on.
"We're going to talk about that," Armstrong said. "There's advantages in both really. There's the advantage of staying in North America. A) playing with some of the players that he might play with if we don't start on time ... some of those players might be down in Peoria. Getting to understand the North American culture off the ice. Also playing on the smaller ice. But then going home, he's developed over there, he's become a very good player over there. I think it's going to be a win-win [situation], and whatever we jointly decide is best for him is the area we'll go. With that being said, Vladi and I both talked, we're hoping the NHL and the NHLPA get something settled by Sept. 15 and this is a non-issue."