The St. Louis Blues’ scoring punch took a big hit as Vladimir Tarasenko will miss most of the season due to a shoulder surgery. A five-time 30-plus goal scorer, the 27-year-old right winger had 10 points in as many games before going under the knife.
Replacing Tarasenko is a significant challenge. They’re cycling Robert Thomas, Oskar Sundqvist and Sammy Blais into the first-line right winger position but aren’t having much success filling the void. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks wondered if the Blues might consider New Jersey Devils winger Taylor Hall as a short-term replacement. Hall, 27, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Brooks also suggested New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider as another trade option. The 28-year-old Kreider is also due to become a UFA in July. The rebuilding Rangers could be reluctant to pay more than $6-million annually to keep him in the fold.
Hall and Kreider, however, are both left wingers, so they won’t fill Tarasenko’s spot on the right side. Hall would also be an expensive acquisition. Should the Devils put him on the trade block, they’ll want a handsome return for the 2018 Hart Trophy winner. Kreider would be more affordable. The Rangers, however, could prefer waiting for the trade deadline to maximize his trade value.
Blues management will remain patient and see how things unfold without Tarasenko. If there’s a pressing need to address his absence, they could pursue more cost-effective rental options.
BLACKHAWKS SHOPPING A DEFENSEMAN?
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook wasn’t pleased about being a healthy scratch in two recent consecutive games. Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times reported the 34-year-old was fuming over the situation last Tuesday.
“You guys seem to want to write articles about my age and my speed. I feel like I’ve still got a lot to offer in this league and still be a good player for somebody,” said Seabrook. Pope took note of those last two words, suggesting the blueliner’s situation should be carefully monitored.
Seabrook’s remarks raised eyebrows around the league. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said the Blackhawks wanted to see if Seabrook was willing to be moved. However, he claimed the request wasn’t made directly to him. By Friday, however, Seabrook clarified his comments. He told The Athletic’s Scott Powers he still has a lot to offer the Blackhawks and wants to be in Chicago.
Seabrook’s full no-movement clause gives him full control over any trade possibilities. His age and his $6.875-million cap hit through 2023-24 should ensure he remains a Blackhawk for the foreseeable future.
Erik Gustafsson, however, is a different story. The 27-year-old defenseman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Coming off a career-high 60-point performance in 2018-19, he’s managed just four points through 13 games and was scratched from Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks.
If recent call-up Adam Boqvist is here to stay, the Chicago Tribune’s Jimmy Greenfield believes Gustafsson’s days in Chicago could be numbered. With the blueliner unlikely to re-sign with the Blackhawks, Greenfield advocates shopping him for a return that helps their ongoing roster rebuild.
Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman could wait until the Feb. 24 trade deadline for good offers for Gustafsson. Greenfield suspects he explored the rearguard’s value this summer but probably didn’t find a decent market for a player with one good season on his resume.
KINGS’ TOFFOLI, CLIFFORD TRADE TARGETS
With the Los Angeles Kings off to another sputtering start, they could once again ship out some long-time veterans before the February trade deadline.
Jonathan Quick’s been the focus of early season trade conjecture. Given his declining performance and his $5.8-million salary-cap hit through 2022-23, the 33-year-old goaltender is a tough sell. GM Rob Blake could have an easier time peddling one or two pending UFAs.
Sporstnet’s Chris Johnston suggested Tyler Toffoli could be available, pointing out he was a recent healthy scratch. The 27-year-old right winger’s production has declined since his 31-goal, 58-point effort in 2015-16. He carries a reasonable $4.6-million annual average value.
Johnston’s colleague Elliotte Friedman reported there’s been no contract extension talks between management and Kyle Clifford. The 28-year-old is in the final season of a five-year, $8-million deal. Friedman believes teams will have to work to acquire the checking-line winger.
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