Well, it looks like they may be doing this. A few weeks back, when the rumors first broke, we looked at the possibility for acquiring Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. In the weeks since it appears that a potential deal with Seattle working as the middle man is growing more and more likely. Even in 2021, Tarasenko is a hard player to not be enamored with. At his peak he was a 40-goal Russian badass and has a Stanley Cup to show for it. Though there have been many factors chipping away at the oasis that Tarasenko once seemed. Does it make sense for the Flyers to acquire Tarasenko?
Typically, the word “potential” in Philadelphia is associated with youth, but in this case it’d be associated with the ceiling of a veteran player. When Tarasenko was at his peak, he was regularly closing on on 40 goals, hitting the mark in 2015-16 and recording 39 in 2016-17, as well as breaking 70 points three times with 66 and 68-point campaigns also in tow. Now entering his 10th season at soon-to-be 30 years old, can he keep his profile as a sniper? Before his repeated shoulder injuries he was as close to a sure thing as you can get in this league. Now the question remains just exactly what his potential looks like?
The rumored deal that will go down at the expansion draft will revolve around Jake Voracek, who will essentially be replaced by Tarasenko. Voracek has three years left on his current contract at a $8.25 million cap hit, compared to Tarasenko who has two years left at a $7.5 million AAV. One year less and $750,000 thousand cheaper is certainly a long-term positive. Coming off the books clean a year before Voracek frees his $8.25 cap hit for whoever may need it during the summer of 2024. It’s considered one of the net positives if a deal were to go down, and if it means getting away from Jake’s huge cap, it may just be worth it.
New voice in the room
One of the biggest things Fletcher alluded to during the season was how the “mix was off” in the room. Voracek, who is the second longest tenured Flyer on the team has been apart of the veteran leadership core for so long now and there seem to be very few heartwarming stories about his time in Philly. He is the easiest player to move on from, as neither Giroux or Couturier are going anywhere just yet, and replacing him with Tarasenko, who has worn an “A” in St. Louis since 2016 and has Stanley Cup experience could go a long way for the young forwards on the Flyers’ roster.
The big red flag that is following Tarasenko around is his recent injury history. He has had three shoulder surgeries since April 2018 and has played just 34 games over the last two seasons. This may not be as pressing an issue of he were, say, a stay-at-home defenseman, but making his living as a goal scorer, the health of his shoulder is a serious point to take into consideration. Tarasenko himself did shoot down injury concerns during the Blues’ exit interviews, but three surgeries on the same body part in a very short amount of time is never a good thing.
Can he still perform?
Piggybacking off the injuries is questioning what level of play he can still bring to the table. With his peak being a 40-goal, 70-point guy, those are lofty expectations to expect to achieve if he is hampered by a lingering shoulder injury. the only way to know for sure in terms of what Tarasenko has left in the tank is to take the risk and acquire him, but bringing on a $7.5 million player who may be a shell of himself is a huge risk when those cap dollars could be going elsewhere in the lineup. That brings us to…
His cap hit
While he may be on a lesser deal than Voracek, $7.5 million for two more years is a pretty penny for a player with such a question mark regarding his future. With big needs still on Fletcher’s to-do list like a solid backup goalie, a legitimate middle-six center, and at least one more defenseman, that cap space can be better utilized. Maybe Seattle could eat at least a bit of that $7.5 million during the swap, making it at least a little more appealing for the Flyers, but if they don’t, it’s a very expensive gamble to take.
Is Tarasenko a sexy name? Absolutely. Is he theoretically the exact type of player the Flyers have needed for years? Yes. Is there a big risk of banking on Tarasenko being the player he once was? Also yes.
There’s a clear “high risk, high reward” factor here. If he can still play at a high level and come close to replicating his 40-goal seasons from the past, he’d be a perfect fit and much needed addition to a roster that is afraid to shoot the puck. Though, if he can’t find his groove and hovers in the 15-20 goal range, that is a huge disappointment and mis-step when the Flyers have so much on the line. The one less year on the contract is certainly a positive especially give the cap may stay flat for the foreseeable future, but their focus shouldn’t be on cap dollars three years from now.
We’ll have to wait and see if Chuck Fletcher ultimately pulls the trigger on a Tarasenko trade or not, but if he does it will certainly be one of the riskier deals in recent Flyers history. Though until he hits the ice when the puck drops for the 2021-22 NHL season, all we can do is sit here and hope the Russian machine truly never breaks.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: apnews.com