Steve Staios is facing a conundrum.
Should the Ottawa Senators keep veteran winger Vladimir Tarasenko or should they ask him to waive his full ‘no move’ clause before the National Hockey League trade deadline that’s set for March 8 at 3 p.m. ET?
Staios, the club’s president of hockey operations and general manager, told reporters in a mid-season availability at the Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday morning that he hasn’t had any discussions with Tarasenko regarding his future, but stated both sides know the reality of the situation.
The Senators may have points in five straight games, but this is going to be another early spring in Ottawa and that means Staios will likely be a seller at the deadline.
Only hours after Staios addressed the media, Tarasenko, signed as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season to a one-year, $5-million US deal, scored his 13th goal of the season with only 3:18 left in the third against the Boston Bruins to tie it up 2-2 and send it to overtime.
The Senators had to settle for the point after Brad Marchand scored the OT winner for the Bruins, but Tarasenko has served notice in his 42 games with the club this season that he’s still a valuable contributor and he could help a contender make a playoff run — if he wants to go that route.
The 32-year-old Tarasenko, who won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019, has 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points. What may be more impressive is that on a team that has struggled defensively, Tarasenko is tied with rookie Ridly Greig for the team lead in plus/minus at plus-16.
Tarasenko has made a good impression with the club’s management.
“I knew the player coming in, but didn’t know the person and I’ve been impressed with his commitment,” Staios said. “There’s a lot to his game other than the offence. He’s won a Stanley Cup and he’s played the right way in situational hockey as well.
“When you look at our situation, we’re not in a playoff position at this time, and we’ll continue to monitor it. We’ll see where we’re at come the trade deadline with a player like Vladdy.”
Staios hasn’t ruled out re-signing Tarasenko, but does that really make sense?
There were scouts from the Washington Capitals, Detroit Red Wings, Calgary Flames, Arizona Coyotes and St. Louis Blues among the spectators on press row for the visit by the Bruins.
Every time Tarasenko scores for Ottawa, he drives up his value on the trade market a little bit more. The Senators need more assets — either prospects or picks — and Tarasenko could bring some of those back in a trade.
Tarasenko has control over the situation because he’ll have the right to make a decision on whether he wants to waive his clause or not. That means he can pick and choose his destination if he wants to move on.
The Carolina Hurricanes made a hard push for him last summer before Tarasenko opted to sign with the Senators and you’d have to think that they’d be one of the teams that would be looking at him as an option.
What to do with Tarasenko is likely one of the topics on the table at the club’s professional scouting meetings that will wrap up this weekend. Chief pro scout Rob Murphy lives in Ottawa, but the rest of the staff arrived in the city Tuesday night and they’ve been meeting this week to discuss options.
Normally, these meetings are held in at the same time as the amateur scouts, but Staios, senior vice-president Dave Poulin and associate GM Ryan Bowness wanted to sit in on these sessions with the pro scouts.
These meetings will set the table for what takes place at the deadline and also are a precursor to make a list of unrestricted free agents the Senators want to keep an eye on down the stretch.
While there has been plenty of speculation regarding the future of defenceman Jakob Chychrun, the Senators don’t really need to make a decision on him until the summer. Teams have called and Staios has listened, but the club has other options on the table with other players.
The Senators have been trying to move winger Dominik Kubalik for the past two months, but haven’t been able to find any takers. It will be interesting to see what happens with defenceman Erik Brannstrom and forward Mark Kastelic because there’s a sense both could be on the move.
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Kastelic returned to the lineup against the Bruins after being scratched for two straight games and you have to dress a player if you want to create a market for him. He played only six minutes and 14 seconds, but he’s a big body and there might be some interest.
Staios will have options at the deadline and he’ll have to weigh all of them before making a deal. He’d like to add a couple of players that can help this club at both ends of the ice, however, it can be difficult to find a dance partner for those types at this time of year.
No matter what happens, there will be no shortage of focus on Taraseko’s future with the Senators.