The trade market has been set for Blues winger Vladimir Tarasenko and any other star rental potentially available in the NHL.
The New York Islanders spent winger Anthony Beauvillier, forward prospect Aatu Raty and a first-round draft pick to get center Bo Horvat from the Vancouver Canucks. Beauvillier is a two-time 18-goal scorer and Raty was a second-round pick in 2021.
The Islanders could move the first-round pick to 2024 if it lands in the top 12 in 2023. Also notable bout this deal: The Canucks kept 25 percent of Horvat’s $5.5 million cap hit to make the numbers work.
Horvat’s trade return might be slightly higher than what the Blues could fetch for Tarasenko, but it set expectations for the big trades to come ahead of the March 3 deadline.
Horvat, like Tarasenko, is headed to unrestricted free agency after this season. The Canucks, like the Blues, flopped and forced management to ponder major changes.
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The Canucks lacked the salary cap flexibility to meet Horvat’s price, which rose as he scored 31 goals in 49 games during his “walk” year.
The Islanders are fighting to stay in the playoff chase, so the team was willing to pay a premium for Horvat, who turns 28 in April. And the Islanders will try to meet his price for a new contract after moving out Beauvillier’s $4.125 million cap hit for next season.
With Horvat off the board, shoppers will turn to other targets. There are more committed sellers than buyers, which complicates things for Blues general manager Doug Armstrong as he retools.
The list of NHL disappointments goes on and on.
The Canucks finished well under upbeat coach Bruce Boudreau, then cratered this season — losing 28 times in a 46-game span. That prompted management to replace Boudreau with Rick Tocchet and trade Horvat.
Islanders czar Lou Lamoriello figured that firing coach Barry Trotz would solve things this season. It didn’t, so Lamoriello landed Horvat early enough to impact the playoff chase.
The Columbus Blue Jackets somehow wooed flashy free-agent winger Johnny Gaudreau to Central Ohio. Alas, Johnny Hockey could not prevent the Blue Jackets from sinking deep into the Metropolitan Division basement.
The Philadelphia Flyers hoped to reset quickly under taskmaster coach John Tortorella, but a 4-14-5 downturn ruined their season. As it turns out, skating guys into the ice during training camp isn’t a cure-all.
The San Jose Sharks tried to remain competitive while gradually shedding their onerous contracts. But their collapse this season reminded everyone that teams can wait too long for major changes.
The Anaheim Ducks figure to complete their eternal rebuild at some point … but that ribbon-cutting is still off on the horizon. It’s hard to get outscored by 80 goals in 50 games, but the Ducks pulled off that feat of futility.
The Montreal Canadiens remain stuck in Carey Price Purgatory, with their once-great goaltender earning $10.5 million to not play on his deteriorated knee. The Habs have players earning nearly $39 million this season on injured reserve or long-term IR.
The Florida Panthers took a big step back despite hiring coach Paul Maurice and trading for Own Town’s Matthew Tkachuk. That team still has ample firepower, but not enough defense or goaltending.
The same could be said for Brady Tkachuk’s Ottawa Senators, who are struggling to gain competitive traction while seeking new ownership.
The rebuilding Red Wings edged over .500 with the help of former Blues David Perron, Ville Husso and Oskar Sundqvist. But general manager Steve Yzerman is mulling whether to pay giant dollars to Dylan Larkin to lead his impressive group of young players.
And then there are the worst of the worst, the teams shamelessly tanking to get future assets and improve their draft lottery odds. The Chicago Blackhawks (15-29-4) and Arizona Coyotes (16-28-6) are racing to the NHL’s bottom.
As a result of all of this, many good players are available to contenders willing to spend premium draft picks and/or prospects.
Sharks winger Timo Meier might be the top target with Horvat off the board. He is a pending restricted free agent who is open to signing a long-term deal. Also, his cap hit is somewhat manageable at $6 million.
Patrick Kane loves Chicago, but playing for an intentional loser can be a joyless slog. Contenders would line up to rent him ahead of his unrestricted free agency as long as the Blackhawks mitigate his $10.5 million cap hit.
Tarasenko carries a lesser hit ($7.5 million), but Armstrong might have to get creative to make trade numbers work. Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev and Niko Mikkola also have expiring contracts, so each could come into play too.
But look at just some of the many other players who could reach the market: forwards Jonathan Toews (Blackhawks) and James van Riemsdyk (Flyers) plus defensemen Vladislav Gavrikov (Blue Jackets), Jakob Chychrun (Coyotes), Jake McCabe (Blackhawks) and John Klingberg (Ducks).
Trade talks will intensify as the NHL shuts down for the All-Star weekend and bye week. Now that one domino has fallen, others will follow.
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