Thursday, July 22, 2021

Armstrong confirms Tarasenko trade request, didn't rule out forward playing for Blues again

Conversation between GM, agent took place days after season ended, calls 
reasons for wanting trade "factually inaccurate;" latest on team UFA's

ST. LOUIS -- Doug Armstrong on Thursday finally disclosed what's been reported, that right wing Vladimir Tarasenko and his camp have requested a trade, but the thought of what Armstrong also dropped on Thursday just seems impossible at this point.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong confirmed on Thursday a trade
request was made by representatives of Vladimir Tarasenko (right).

"Oh no, I see there's certainly an outlook where I envision him putting on the jersey again," Armstrong said of Tarasenko playing for the Blues again. "There's many players in the NHL that have requested trades. You always try and keep it below the surface. But our responsibility is to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues, and if it means that he comes back and plays for us, that's the outlook that it has, but my responsibility is to the franchise and to do what's best for the Blues and hopefully best for Vladi." 

And with that, Armstrong hasn't burned the bridge himself of a potential return of Tarasenko to the Blues. He addressed the situation via Zoom and confirmed Tarasenko's request for a trade came through his agent, Paul Theofanous, two days after the completion of the season on May 25 after the Blues were swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Colorado Avalanche. 

There have been reports of the reasonings of why Tarasenko requested a trade, one of which was Tarasenko allegedly had issues with the way the first two shoulder surgeries were performed by the Blues medical staff. Armstrong refuted those reports.

"I'm not going to get into the nuances of the he-said, she-said things that have been reported," Armstrong said. 'A lot of the the things that are coming out are so factually inaccurate, it's shocking, but I'm not going to get into that."

Tarasenko has played in 34 regular-season games the past two seasons due to a dislocated left shoulder that has required three surgeries since the end of the 2017-18 season. He played in 24 games this past season and had 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) and scored twice during the playoff-series loss against the Avalanche.

After his initial surgery in 2017, he came back and played 76 games in 2018-19 and helped lead the Blues to their first Stanley Cup title. He was injured again Oct. 24, 2019 and had surgery on Oct. 27 and returned to play in four playoff games but was sent home for further evaluation to confirm the shoulder injury again that required a third surgery that left him out for the start of the 2020-21 season before making his season debut March 6 against the Los Angeles Kings. 

Tarasenko was previously represented by Mike Liut but switched agents with approximately a month remaining in the 2020-21 season.

"A couple days after the year ended, Paul called me and Vladi had talked to him and felt it was best if we could try and find a different opportunity for him and for us," Armstrong said. "I took that information. Vladi obviously has a full no-trade clause. He gave me a list of teams that would be a preference, a destination for him. 

"The way that I operate with no-trade clauses is I informed all the teams that Vladi had requested a trade. I said that there's a list of teams that he would prefer to go to, but if anyone has any ideas or some thoughts, I would work with them and take something to Vladi and he would have the 100 percent opportunity to accept or reject that concept."

Tarasenko has a full no-trade clause in his eight-year, $60-million contract he signed July 7, 2015 and it kicked in for the 2019-20 season, but he submitted a list of teams that he'd be willing to waive it to go to, according to Armstrong. A trade was not consummated prior to the Blues having to turn in their list to protect and leave unprotected for the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck, which was conducted Wednesday.
The Kraken chose defenseman Vince Dunn instead and Tarasenko, who has two years remaining on a contract that carries a $7.5 million average annual value, remains a member of the Blues.

"I want to thank Paul. We were able to sort of keep it under the surface for 6-8 weeks," Armstrong said. "It came out a couple weeks ago and it sort of grabbed a life of its own. Going into the expansion draft, I felt an understanding that Vladi's desire was to see if there was a different opportunity, that we would expose him, understanding that if he got claimed and traded, claimed in Seattle, it would give him the fresh start he was looking for and also free up some cap space for us. The expansion went through and Seattle made the decision to go with Vince Dunn. As of today, Vladi is a member of the Blues.

"This is not something I'm going to be updating after this call today. Whatever we do will be done behind closed doors. Vladi has to prepare like he's coming back to St. Louis, he has to get ready to play. He's a 30-year-old, I'm sure he wants to play for a number of years in the NHL and he has to come back and have a great season and our focus is to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues. It was that when I heard that information and nothing has changed in that fashion. If we can do something that accommodates the player and the team, we'll certainly put our best foot forward, but my responsibility is to the St. Louis Blues and its fan base."

In other words, the Blues aren't trading Tarasenko just to be trading him and getting him off the books as fast as they can. If a deal can be made, the Blues will do it, whether they have to eat some of the salary or not, but the Blues are going to do their due diligence on this one now that the expansion draft is history and Tarasenko is still here. And if this goes perhaps into training camp or the season and the player refuses to play, then he won't get paid.

"Trades are difficult in the NHL," Armstrong said. "You don't see many of them quite honestly anymore and certainly in a flat cap system ($81.5 million) and also the structure of contracts, it's difficult to make moves. This one is no different. Obviously we're dealing with a player that's coming off of injury too,  which I'm sure it affects other teams on how they view it and what risk they're willing to take. I view Vladi as a healthy player, a guy that has scored 30 goals in the past on numerous occasions and a guy that should continue to score. As I said, I'm going to do what's best for the St. Louis Blues and making decisions to part ways.

"It's like anything that we do. We look at the pros and cons. We try and envision our decision, how it's going to play itself out. I have a frat of very, quality, experienced group of people here and we do what we think is best for the organization."

The free agency period begins on Wednesday, and for those that think Tarasenko has to be off the books for the Blues to go out and sign marquee players, ones that will make high-end money, they're allowed to go over the cap. It's just they have to be compliant by a certain time frame. 

"I know the cap is 81.5," Armstrong said. "We've projected out what it's going to cost us to keep our restricted free agents. Vladi's money is in that grouping, so it has an affect.

"... I'm not as concerned on the next couple of weeks as probably other people are. What I think we need to protect ourselves against is making a mistake right now. You get into a situation where you get nervous and all of the sudden you see long-term contracts given and you're a little uncomfortable and you do it, and then you're wondering what you did. I remember we were in this similar situation when we lost the semifinals to San Jose (in 2016) and lost some players (David Backes and Troy Brouwer), but you just have to understand it has to make sense for the organization today and tomorrow. Whether it's via free agency, whether it's via trades or whether it's via giving your young players an opportunity because you don't like what's available, you have to be honest with yourself and make sure you're doing what's best for the organization. Not just a splash-wise on the 28th or 29th but something that you can live with."

Speaking of splashes, the Blues have some of their own splashes to deal with, namely pending UFA forwards Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman and Tyler Bozak along with finalizing contracts for pending RFA's Ivan Barbashev and Zach Sanford, who are both arbitration-eligible, Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas, all of whom will get qualifying offers.

For Schwartz, it sounds like the player will test the market.

"Based on where we are today, there's always a chance that we can get something done, but I've been under the understanding that Schwartzy was going to want to see what free agency is like," Armstrong said. "That could change with one phone call. With that, it gives him and opportunity and gives us an opportunity to look around. 

"We have options of putting (Brayden) Schenn on the left side and going with (Ryan) O'Reilly and Robert Thomas down the middle, then you have Vladi and (David) Perron, Kyrou and Schenn, so you have a group of guys there that can fill the void or we get into free agency."
Regarding Hoffman and Bozak, there's an interest by the GM to have them both back.

"We've had conversations with our own guys," Armstrong said. "The 28th is the drop-dead date. Obviously I thought Mike came in and once he found some solid footing in our group, I thought he was a good player for us in the end and into the playoffs. I have a lot of respect for him. If he came back, I'd have no issues with that. 

"Certainly, Bozie's been a really good player for us for three years. I would say our depth in that area is probably a little stronger than in the top six. Both players, I really respect and certainly we'll keep the lines of communication open."

Addressing Dunn's departure will also be a focal point since the Blues are losing a home grown player, one who was an offensive defenseman that quarterbacked one of the power play units and is still only 24 years old.

 "Obviously we knew we were going to lose a player of value to our organization," Armstrong said. "I think that's the part and parcel with bringing that 32nd team (in). I think the NHL's done a great job of making sure that these new teams are competitive right off the get-go, or have the ability to be competitive. I think when we look at past expansions, maybe player pools wasn't deep enough and then all of the sudden you're in a market that can't have success and you maybe blame the market when the team itself wasn't set up to be competitive. ... First off, I'd like to thank Vince for his time here, second round pick that our guys did a nice job of developing, coming in being part of a championship team, always pushing to get better. I think he has a really bright future ahead of him and I want to thank him for his time here.

"You want to give young players the opportunities, the (Niko) Mikkolas, the (Jake) Walmans, potentially the (Scott) Perunovich's of the world as they gain experience, and to do that, you have to give them opportunities. When you lose the player of Vince's caliber, it makes a difference, but it does create opportunities for other people. 

"There's certainly options on what we want to do, if we want to go outside, where do we want to spend our money," Armstrong continued. "Do we want to give younger players an opportunity to grow and have success. That's always the interesting part for every organization is when do you sort of remove the safety net and give the young player an opportunity to take a role, a bigger role on the team. I think we need to do that with (Klim) Kostin, I think we need to do that with Kyrou, I think we need to do that with Thomas. The question is how deep do we go into our back end in doing that."

And lastly, Armstrong said that players who were or have been injured within the past year or at year's end, namely Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk and Robert Bortuzzo, have been working out and training at Centene Community Ice Center and "It seems like all systems are ahead on all of our guys."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said that defenseman Colton
Parayko (55) is "doing well" and should be ready for the upcoming season.

The 2021 NHL Draft will commence Friday and Saturday, all virtually, and the Blues will have the 16th pick (technically 17th if you count Arizona at No. 11, but the Coyotes had to forfeit their pick). Armstrong feels at pick 16, "all indications are that there will be someone there that we like. ... There's a couple of players that we believe will be at 16."

Unless the Blues trade the pick, whether in a larger-scoped trade or to move down and still get one of three players Armstrong said scouts like but feel will still be on the board, all indications are they'll be making the pick.


  1. The coach needs to play Hoffman more and let him get higher numbers. Hope he resigns. Hoping for Mathew Tuchuk also

  2. Schwartz plays with lot of heart but at times he could not hit an open garage door with shot

  3. Well first of all, you need to re-sign Hoffman first, and that's not a given. As for Matthew Tkachuk, it's great that he'd like to come home but unless Doug Armstrong his something up his sleeve, and he could, that's a more realistic scenario next year.

  4. The Blues need over 6 foot defense-man that will clear front of net and can shoot from the point as well. A top 4 defense man

  5. We hoping as Blues fans Christmas in July. We feel and we not as knowledgeable as you but get a 15 to 20 goal scorer a defense man top 4 and resign Hoffman and hope coach uses him more Thanks for the coverage and hopes and Blues Dreams