Philadelphia Flyers: To trade or not to trade for Vladimir Tarasenko

After turning in an underwhelming season that left many a fan in the City of Brotherly Love discouraged about the future, the Philadelphia Flyers came out swinging in the lead-up to the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, shipping out Nolan Patrick and Philippe Myers in a three-team deal to acquire ex-Nashville Predators defenseman, Ryan Ellis.

Now, on paper, this deal has very little downside for the Orange and Black. While Myers is still an ascending young player and Patrick is only four years removed from being the second overall pick in the NHL Draft, Ellis is without a doubt the best player involved in the deal and could become the perfect long-term partner for Ivan Provorov moving forward.

Surely this was a wonderful weekend for Gritty’s favorite hockey team, and fans could take the rest of it off to enjoy a nice Sunday in the middle of the summer.

… or the team could try it again and take another swing at landing a veteran player coming off a down year in the hopes of vaulting their current corps back to their 2020 heights and potentially beyond.

If recent rumors are to be believed, that just might be the case.

Is Vladimir Tarasenko’s upside worth the risk for the Philadelphia Flyers?

For much of the last decade, Vladimir Tarasenko was one of the best wing snipers in the NHL.

The 16th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft out of Yaroslavl, Russia, Tarasenko recorded five straight seasons with 30-plus goals from 2014-19, with a 21 goal sophomore season thrown in there for good measure.

Whether playing off of players like T.J. Oshie, Alex Steen, and Paul Stastny early in his career, or Ryan O’Reilly and our old friend Brayden Schenn more recently, Tarasenko consistently ranked among the best points scorers on the St. Louis Blues and even led the team in assists on 2016-17, signifying a willingness to share the puck as much as score it.

But since 2017, Tarasenko has undergone three shoulder surgeries and hasn’t quite looked like the player who hoisted the Stanley Cup over his head only two years prior.

From 2019-21, Tarasenko has only appeared in 609 games for the Blues – 531 regular season contests and 78 in the playoffs – and has only averaged 0.214 goals per game, which is a notable downgrade from his six-year prime. Factor in the massive contract Tarasenko signed in 2015, worth $60 million over eight years, and any team trading for his services is making a pretty significant bet that things will bounce back with a summer of rest and relaxation.

That upside, my friends, is what Chuck Fletcher would be betting on, and believe you me, it would be one heck of a consequential bargain.

On one hand, Tarasenko has already requested a trade as per Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic.  He’s submitted his preferred destinations to the Blues’ brass, and, in an adventurous twist of fate, the Philadelphia Flyers happen to be on that list.

Now, to be fair, trading for Tarasenko might not be an option, period. The Seattle Kraken may opt to draft him and close off any trade conversations, or they could instead opt to select Vince Dunn, the other player many a St. Louis fan fears losing, and the Blues could ship him to a third party with a more attractive asset pool.

But what if the Kraken do opt to select Tarasenko with the explicit desire to ship him to South Philly for, say, Jakub Voracek or James van Riemsdyk? In theory, such a deal could make sense for both parties.

For one, it would allow the Kraken to draft Shayne Gostisbehere (more on that here), who had his best professional seasons under current Seattle head coach Dave Hakstol. It would also secure the Kraken a savvy veteran forward in Voracek who is a good passer and a solid shooter on a long-term deal that runs through the 2023-24 season. While Voracek and/or JvR don’t have the same upside as Tarasenko, not at the current stage of their respective careers anyway, they do have far more stable floors and thus could be attractive foundational pieces from which to build a new franchise from the ground up.

And as for the Flyers? Well, considering they’re reportedly out on keeping Vorack around for the 2021-22 season, why not turn his contract into a player who, at best, could headline their top-line offensive attack for years to come and, at worst, is under contract for one fewer year at roughly the same AAV.

Is the Voracek we know and love worth gambling on Tarasenko when his future status is very much up in the air?

Two years ago, the Philadelphia Flyers would have been crazy not to trade for Vladimir Tarasenko. He was coming off of winning a Stanley Cup, was an assistant captain on one of the best teams in the NHL, and was in the middle of an impressive string of 20-plus goal seasons. But now, any team looking to procure his services either from the St. Louis Blues or the Seattle Kraken are betting on his shoulder returning to full strength, which is an unknowable variable that any GM has to consider. Is Chuck Fletcher the GM for the job? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s certainly worth considering.