Apr 19, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (91) looks to pass as Dallas Stars center Vernon Fiddler (38) defends during the first period at the Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Vladimir Tarasenko Should Be On The Pens Radar


The Pittsburgh Penguins don’t have a lot of cap space.

In fact, after signing forward Matt D’Agostini Wednesday, they only have $126,667 left — which ranks fourth worst in the NHL.

Pittsburgh will probably choose to accomplish shedding the cap hit through some sort of trade, and considering their weaknesses on the wing — they could potentially get it done with one team.

The St. Louis Blues, who have $12,974,167 million in cap space (fifth best), could very well be that other party involved.

And one player that could bring some intrigue is young forward Vladimir Tarasenko.

Tarasenko, 21, was St. Louis’ first-round selection (16th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, and he exploded onto the scene when he dazzled in the Blues season-opener with two electrifying goals.

Although his season was derailed due to a concussion, the 5’11”, 202-pound winger still saw valuable minutes on the Blues top power play and finished the year with 19 points (8G, 11A) in 38 regular-season contests.

The Pens won’t be able to pry him away from the Blues easily — but one player the Pens could consider dealing is James Neal.

Yeah, I said it — James Neal.

Neal, whose signed through the 2017-18 season and makes $5 million per-year, could entice St. Louis into departing with Tarasenko.

Underachieving in the playoffs, Neal has been mediocre — and at times looked almost invisible.

Despite scoring five goals in the final two games of the Ottawa Senators series this past postseason, Neal registered just one in the first-round against the New York Islanders and failed to record a point in the final series against Boston.

Even in those two games where he was a scoring machine, overall, the Pens as a group were dominating the inexperienced Sens.

Instead of looking at how overwhelming he was in that one moment in time, Pens fans must understand that if you take those five goals away from his total playoff statistics — he would have a mere 13 points (4G, 9A) in 24 games.

Not good.

He finished this past postseason failure with a disappointing minus-3 rating — also not acceptable.

But knowing Pittsburgh — and General Manager Ray Shero — they’ll probably require more in return than just one skater if they’re going to surrender Neal.

And because the Pens are so reluctant on getting rid of defenseman Paul Martin — Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen could be thrown into the mix due to their contracts expiring following next season.

So how about this.

Pittsburgh will most likely want to part with Niskanen, so give St. Louis him and Neal for Tarasenko, draft picks and prospects.

Niskanen will make $2.3 million for the 2013-14 campaign and the move would dump $7.3 million (not including the contracts being taken in) off the books.

This is all hypothetical of course, but a line of Jussi Jokinen, Evgeni Malkin and Tarasenko could do some serious damage.

Not to mention the Pens would save a hefty sum from Neal’s exuberant contract.

Think about it Ray.


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