With the Philadelphia Flyers’ offense about as stale as a week old slice of bread, the front office is going to have to assess all options during the 2023 offseason in order to put a competitive team on the ice. One of the many interesting names in the upcoming free agent group is soon-to-be 31-year-old forward Vladimir Tarasenko, who has spent all 11 years of his career with the St. Louis Blues.
Tarasenko was apparently on the Flyers’ radar during the 2021 offseason when the rumors were swirling that he and St. Louis were destined to part ways, but he ultimately never left the Blues organization.
At that time, he was working his way back from two shoulder surgeries and had played just 34 games from 2019 to 2021. He was able to return to full form during 2021-22 and posted 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games. Now, less than a month away from his 31st birthday and already racking up 13 points in 16 games this season, he’s on an expiring contract that paid him $7.5 million per season for the last eight years and is poised to be one of the biggest names heading in the 2023 free agent market.
Could the Flyers reignite their interest in the Russian winger since they won’t have to negotiate a trade? Now that Tarasenko has proven that he isn’t limited by his copious past shoulder problems, there may be less hesitancy to attempt to sign him.
The age still isn’t great. His offensive totals may not have slowed down yet, but at 31, there’s a good chance he doesn’t have too many point-per-game seasons left in him. The Flyers have been bit by their key players trending older over the last few seasons, so if they did have interest, a short term deal would be critical, but it’s unconfirmed as to whether or not Chuck Fletcher even knows what a “short term” deal is.
While he appears to be past the injury bug, that he never really dealt with before the shoulder problems, if there’s one thing the Flyers have had absolutely zero luck with over the last few seasons, it’s been staying clear of injuries. Leave it to the Flyers to sign him for three years, he suits up for half a dozen games then gets irreparable shoulder damage and sits on LTIR for the remainder of his deal. Unlikely? Yeah, probably. Very fitting considering recent history? Absolutely.
The biggest positive about Tarasenko is that he knows how to shoot the puck. It has been a long while since the Flyers have had themselves a shoot-first player, and there are few in the league today who do it better than Tarasenko. He’s hit 30 goals in six of his 10 seasons, only missing in his rookie and sophomore seasons and the two lost to the shoulder surgeries, and broke the 40-goal plateau once back in 2016. Tarasenko could also be a great mentor to Tyson Foerster, the Flyers’ top prospect who is projected to eventually be a top goalscorer in his own right.
If they would pursue Tarasenko, It would be best to consider him as a secondary player. If he shows up and continues as a 30-goal, point-per-game player, that would be all the better, but given the age, they can’t sign him, consider it a big fish home run addition then risk the inevitable decline in production if he was the only notable addition the team made during the offseason. Based on the 2022 offseason when the traded for and signed Tony DeAngelo and called it a summer, Fletcher has proven a tendency to do the bare minimum and call it a day. If he intends on doing that again, Tarasenko may not be the best player to start with. Consider a younger center priority number one if Fletcher doesn’t do his job to the fullest yet again.
The loose connections the Flyers had to Tarasenko a few summers ago could potentially be a breadcrumb that he could once again be on their radar. He may not be the perfect addition right now given his age and timeline the Flyers are on, but the organization is so suffocated for talent that is he’s the only higher end player to give them the time of day, they really can’t be too picky. Provided he would sign a two to three year contract, even if it means a slightly boosted cap hit, and he’s brought in as a complimentary piece and not expected to single handedly carry the team’s scoring, Tarasenko could breath some much-needed life into the Philadelphia Flyers.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com