NHL contract grades: Vladimir Tarasenko brings all-offense mentality to Red Wings

The contract

The Detroit Red Wings sign forward Vladimir Tarsenko to a two-year deal with a $4.75 million AAV.

When the Red Wings gave San Jose a second-round pick just to take Jake Walman’s $3.4-million cap hit off their hands, it opened up some intriguing possibilities in free agency. And for a team that’s missed the playoffs in eight straight seasons, but was knocking on the door this past season, it seemed like some fireworks could be on the horizon.

Then Steve Yzerman went out and signed Erik Gustafsson, Cam Talbot and Jack Campbell. Pffffft.

Sure, they re-signed Patrick Kane to a team-friendly deal, and brought back bottom-six worker Christian Fischer. But they seemed to be running in place, not catching up to the Eastern Conference leaders.

Will Vladimir Tarasenko change that? Not by himself. But he helps.

Detroit sent Robby Fabbri and his $4-million cap hit to Anaheim in a cap dump to clear the space for Tarasenko, with the rest of the money mostly earmarked for restricted free agents Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider and Joe Veleno. And Tarasenko is an upgrade over Fabbri, so it’s a better allocation of resources.

But this isn’t the same Tarasenko who posted six 30-goal seasons with the St. Louis Blues, a hyper-active wrecking ball and underrated playmaker. At 32, he’s clearly lost a step in terms of speed, he’s largely disinterested on the forecheck, and he’s basically given up on the idea of playing defense. By the time his run with the Blues ended, opponents were scoring nearly five goals per 60 minutes with Tarasenko on the ice.

But the shot is always the last thing to go, and Tarasenko’s still got a really good one — whether it’s a one-timer from the circle or off the rush, where he’s always excelled. His shooting percentage between Ottawa and Florida this season was 14.8 percent, the second-highest of his career, as he scored 23 goals in 76 games, adding five more in the Panthers’ Stanley Cup run. That’s higher than his career average of 12.9 percent, but it’s in the same general ballpark — with that shot, he’s always been a player that out-performs the metrics. At least, offensively. His strong play in the Eastern Conference final and Stanley Cup Final probably earned him the second year of this contract after only managing to get a one-year deal out of Ottawa last summer.

Ideally, Tarasenko is a middle-six winger with carefully sheltered usage, deployed in the offensive zone and on the power play. He can replace the departed David Perron’s production on the second line — 41 goals and 103 points over the past two seasons — and Perron’s Stanley Cup experience. He won’t, however, bring the forecheck and snarl that Perron did. But, hey, the idea of him playing opposite longtime Central Division rival Patrick Kane on the second line is tantalizing — at one end of the ice, at least.

Contract grade: B
Fit grade: B

(Photo: Eliot J. Schechter / NHLI via Getty Images)

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