Vladimir Tarasenko could be difference maker for Rangers against Devils
While there’s been a lot of focus on Patrick Kane, who the New York Rangers performed major cap gymnastics to acquire, it’s Vladimir Tarasenko that could be the difference maker against the New Jersey Devils.
Heading into this season, the Rangers right wing position was a huge question mark with youngsters Kaapo Kakko, Vitali Kravtsov, and Sammy Blais competing for top-nine spots. Alexis Lafreniere and Chris Kreider were also playing out of position early on to address that area of weakness.
However, the Rangers were always eyeing a big trade to bolster that spot but needed to wait closer to the trade deadline to make it work with the salary cap.
Vladimir Tarasenko Rangers’ x-factor vs Devils
On February 9th, GM Chris Drury shipped a conditional first-round pick (2023), a conditional fourth-round pick (2024), forward Sammy Blais, and prospect defenseman Hunter Skinner to the St. Louis Blues for Tarasenko (50% salary retained) and defenseman Niko Mikkola.
By doing so, the Rangers filled a huge need for a top-six right wing and upgrade on the third-pair left defense spot.
“It’s something we’ve been looking at for a while,” Drury said. “It gives the two new players a little more time to acclimate to our group, so excited to do it now and get them in the lineup.”
The fact that Kane would only waive his full-no move clause to play on Broadway was an added bonus to this Rangers’ roster in March. That allowed head coach Gerard Gallant to make sure the Kid Line can stay intact for the post season.
That being said, there was a reason the Rangers eyed Tarasenko and made him a priority over Kane. It was best explained by NHL Network Analyst and former player Mike Rupp on Forever Blueshirts TV back in January.
“I think of Vlad Tarasenko as the type of guy the Rangers need,” Rupp stated. “He’s 235 pounds and I walked by him at an All Star Game in Nashville a few years ago. He’s walking down the hallway and he’s so big. He’s so powerful out there and he plays in traffic. If you had a second line of Panarin, Trocheck, and Tarasenko sign me up for that.”
Fast forward a few month later and that is the Rangers’ second line coming into this playoff battle against the Devils.
Tarasenko has a unique blend of size and skill that could be the x-factor when the teams’ top lines square off. His ability to be physical in order to retrieve pucks is key, but when you add in his incredible offensive talents it will give the Devils’ defense fits.
What makes Tarasenko so dangerous is once he comes away with the puck, he can either set up a nice play or use his elite shot to beat Vitek Vanecek clean. Throw in the fact that Tarasenko has a penchant for scoring against the Devils and he’s an obvious choice for me.
In 14 career games, he’s registered 18 points for a 1.28 points per game average. That ranks second only to the Columbus Blue Jackets (1.31) for teams he played at least two games against.
Tarasenko, 31, is in the final year of his deal with an AAV of $7.5 million and is set to be a UFA this summer. This season, he’s posted 50 points in 69 games split between the Rangers and Blues.
While he’s certainly looking to make an impression for a new contract, his focus is on winning a Cup his a Stanley Cup. In 2019, he helped the Blues to their first ever title with 11 goals and 6 assists in 26 playoff games.
“Everyone’s thinking of one goal in the end,” Tarasenko said after the team acquired Kane. “He’ll help us achieve it.”