CHICAGO — Vladimir Tarasenko will be a key part of the St. Louis Blues this season, and there are “no hard feelings” after the forward requested a trade, Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly said.
“We’re saddling up to win games and he’s as much a part of it as anyone,” O’Reilly said at the NHL/NHLPA Player Media Tour on Friday.
“We’ve had a brief talk, ‘Vladi’ and I. He’s here and I think he wants to be here. Yeah, that happened, the trade request happened, and it is what it is. I think we’re a better team with him here and we have such good depth. But there’s no hard feelings.”
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said July 22 that Tarasenko’s agent, Paul Theofanus, made the trade request May 25 and that it was possible the forward would remain with St. Louis.
Blues coach Craig Berube told “The Cam & Strick Podcast” on Sept. 7 that he expects Tarasenko to play with St. Louis this season.
“I’m going to treat him like every other player,” Berube said. “And yeah, he asked to be traded, and things happen, but again, you know, we want Vladi to play good hockey for us. … He’s going to have a role on the team like he always has, we’ll deal with it internally and we’ll go from there.”
Tarasenko scored 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 24 regular-season games and two goals in four Stanley Cup Playoff games last season. He played his first game March 6; he was out the first two months recovering from surgery on his left shoulder on Sept. 17, 2020. He had surgery on that same shoulder in 2017 and 2019.
Armstrong denied reports that Tarasenko requested a trade because he was unhappy with how the Blues handled his shoulder issue.
The Blues left Tarasenko unprotected for the Seattle Kraken to select in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft held July 21, but Seattle instead chose defenseman Vince Dunn from St. Louis.
Tarasenko, who was selected by the Blues in the first round (No. 16) of the 2010 NHL Draft, is fifth in St Louis history with 218 goals, and his 442 points are 10th. He helped the Blues win the Stanley Cup in 2019, scoring 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 26 playoff games.
The 29-year-old has two seasons remaining on an eight-year, $60 million contract ($7.5 million average annual value) he signed July 7, 2015.
O’Reilly said Tarasenko has been skating with him and other Blues players in St. Louis.
“He looks awesome,” the center said. “I think he’s going to have a great year. He’s my teammate, I love him, I’ve been able to play with him for three years. He’s won me a Cup, so we’re forever teammates and I’m glad he’s with us.”
O’Reilly said he can relate to Tarasenko. O’Reilly expressed frustration on April 9, 2018, two days after ending his final season with the Buffalo Sabres, who didn’t finish higher than 14th in the Eastern Conference in his three seasons with them.
“We’re stuck in this mindset of just being OK with losing,” O’Reilly said then. “I feel, too, it’s really crept into myself. … It’s disappointing, it’s sad. … I feel throughout the year I’ve lost the love of the game multiple times. I need to get back to it; it’s eaten myself up and you can see other guys too. It’s eaten myself up, it’s tough.”
O’Reilly was traded to the Blues by the Sabres on July 1, 2018. He played his first six NHL seasons for the Colorado Avalanche, who traded him to the Sabres on June 26, 2015.
“I’ve been traded twice,” O’Reilly said Friday. “I thought I’d be in Colorado forever, then same with Buffalo, I thought I’d be there forever. Things don’t work out and things move. It’s the way the game goes. That’s why I feel I have no hard feelings against [Tarasenko]. Sometimes you feel like you need a change, and every player has the right to do it. So no tension there at all.”