Tarasenko and defenseman Niko Mikkola were traded Thursday by the St. Louis Blues in exchange for forward Sammy Blais, defensive prospect Hunter Skinner, a conditional 2023 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.
The Blues are retaining 50% of Tarasenko's $8 million cap hit. As for the conditions of the picks, the Rangers have both their original first-rounder and the Dallas Stars' first-round pick from an earlier trade. The Blues will get the later of the two first-round picks, and if the Stars' pick is a top-10 pick, it will shift to next year and the Blues will receive the later of the two picks.
"Tough situation, for sure,'' Blues manager Craig Berube told reporters after Thursday's practice. "Obviously we haven't performed well enough. That's what happens: Trades are made. Both of them have been good players for us.''
The Blues moving on from Tarasenko had been thought to be a possibility for quite some time. He was exposed ahead of the Seattle Kraken expansion draft back in 2021 but stayed with St. Louis.
Tarasenko responded with 34 goals and 82 points during the 2021-22 season to help the Blues reach the postseason. But a slow start coupled with what appeared to be a fractured relationship with the front office led to the belief Tarasenko could be gone. He was asked about his future during All-Star Weekend and said even he was unsure of his status going forward.
Less than a week later, he was moved to the Rangers.
"A couple years ago I was provided a list of teams that he would like to go to, so I started with that group and I was able to find a match out of that group," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told reporters. "I was hoping that that didn't change. Obviously New York's a marquee city for all players in the league, so I was comfortable that when I called (his agent), I would have been surprised if that had have been an issue.''
Getting a six-time 30-goal scorer such as Tarasenko achieves a number of things for New York. For one, it gives the Rangers one of the most coveted players ahead of the NHL trade deadline. It also means the Rangers, who sit third in the Metropolitan Division, are now armed with another top-six forward who complements what they already have with Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck and Mika Zibanejad, among others.
Meanwhile, adding Mikkola gives the Rangers a top-six defenseman who has three points in 50 games this season.
"It's something we've been looking at for a while,'' Rangers general manager Chris Drury told reporters. "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.''
A source told ESPN's Emily Kaplan that the Rangers explored the idea of getting either Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane or San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier. But the Rangers felt the price for either player was too high and were also worried about the salary cap implications. Plus, the Rangers had concerns over Kane's hip injury.
New York didn't want to wait for Kane, who has a no trade clause and has yet to communicate his intentions to Blackhawks management.
As for the Blues, it's possible trading Tarasenko could be just the start. Inconsistencies have led to the Blues being nine points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
In Blais, they get a familiar face back having drafted him in 2014. He was part of the team's Stanley Cup win but was later moved in the trade that brought Pavel Buchnevich from the Rangers to the Blues. Blais has five points in 40 games with the Rangers this season.
Asked if he was done trading, Armstrong laughed and said, "Finished for tonight.''
Armstrong also declined to answer about the possibility of signing captain Ryan O'Reilly beyond this season.
"Ryan's our captain,'' Armstrong said. "I'm a big fan of Ryan. He and I talked behind closed doors, and I'm going to keep it there. He knows how I feel about him.''