A major domino fell on Thursday after the New York Rangers acquired six-time 30-goal scorer Vladimir Tarasenko — and depth defenseman Niko Mikkola — from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for a conditional first-round pick in 2023, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2024, defenseman prospect Hunter Skinner and bottom-six forward Sammy Blais. The Blues also retained 50 percent of Tarasenko's $7.5 million salary.
The first-round pick will be the later of the two first-rounders, whether that's New York's or Dallas'. If Dallas finishes with a Top 10 pick, it will shift to next year and be the later of those two. The 2024 fourth-round pick also becomes a third-rounder if the Rangers make the playoffs this season.
Immediate thoughts on the deal from Chicago's point of view:
- The Rangers were in the market for a high-profile top-six winger, and Patrick Kane was always viewed as the perfect fit because of his history with Artemi Panarin. It's hard to see that happening now, from a financial perspective.
To execute the Tarasenko trade, the Rangers sent a contract to St. Louis (Blais), placed a player on waivers (Libor Hajek) and needed the Blues to eat half of Tarasenko's salary. The Rangers are now right up against the ceiling. Things can change with a significant injury, but feels like their heavy-lifting is done.
- By the way, it was Tarasenko who tried to convince St. Louis to sign Panarin in 2015. Panarin eventually chose Chicago, but I'm sure the Panarin-Tarasenko connection came into play when the Rangers were deciding which player to trade for.
- According to ESPN's Emily Kaplan, the Rangers targeted Tarasenko after feeling like the asking prices for Kane and Timo Meier were "too high," and that they also had some concerns over Kane's reported hip injury, which sidelined him for three games earlier this season.
I've got to be honest: The Kane nagging injury storyline feels a bit overblown. This is not a new development, it's something he's been dealing with for years. The only thing that's really changed is that it's public now. I think his low production this season has more to do with the infrastructure around him and not having a finisher like Alex DeBrincat on his line and on the power play than it does an injury.
Here's what Kane had to say about his injury recently: "It’s not something I’m thinking about or worried about. When I get on the ice, it’s not like you’re thinking about anything else except playing as well as you can. I guess it’s not really something for me to worry about. Just go about it the best I can."
I think the only legitimate reason to think twice about acquiring Kane is if you're planning to sign him to an extension. In that case, it would be fair for teams to want to know his medical outlook beyond this season. But Kane as a potential rental? My concern would be pretty low there.
- As far as the return, the Blues didn't get anything earth-shattering back, in part because Tarasenko held all the cards. He had a full no-trade clause and you have to wonder how many teams he gave St. Louis. If it was just the Rangers, the Blues had pretty little trade leverage.
Like Tarasenko, Kane has total control over where he would want to go. If Kane chooses to leave and gives the Blackhawks multiple teams he would be willing to go to, then there could be a bidding war, which would favor Chicago. If it's only one, temper your expectations for what a potential return would be for the Blackhawks. Have to think the Rangers would have been on Kane's hypothetical list, which eliminates them from the equation.
- So, what options would Kane have if the Rangers are no longer in the running? Vegas, for one, comes to mind, especially if Mark Stone is out for the rest of the regular season with the possibility of a return for the playoffs. Kane skated on a line with Jack Eichel at the BioSteel Camp before training camp. Dallas, Los Angeles and New Jersey could also be possibilities. Again, it's all about where Kane would want to go.
It should be noted Kane said on Monday that his agent Pat Brisson informed him over the bye week/All-Star break of the potential opportunities out there. At least a few teams reached out to express interest or ask about his availability.
Kane called those possibilities "intriguing," but said "we're not really at that point" of deciding which teams he could go to. It's still no guarantee he's moved ahead of the March 3 trade deadline, even if it feels like he could be leaning in that direction.
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