By: Andrew Bluestein | Follow Me on Twitter @adbblue
With the National Hockey League free agency looming, multiple moves have already been made around the league. The Bruins have traded Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno and bought out defenseman Mike Reilly’s contract. These moves have given them just over $12.5 million in cap space, so the question remains, what will Don Sweeney and the front office do come July 1st?
Boston has eight unrestricted free agents, including winger Tyler Bertuzzi. The latest word from NHL insider Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet is that Bertuzzi will test the open market in free agency. If that holds, several teams will be willing to pay top dollar for the 28-year-old’s services. If the Bruins fail to bring him back, it will leave a large vacancy on the wing. But they could target a name to help fill that void: UFA Vladimir Tarasenko.
Bruins fans know Tarasenko well after dealing with him in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against the St. Blues, but the 31-year-old could be a fathomable replacement if Bertuzzi heads elsewhere. Tarasenko is coming off a decent season, finishing with the New York Rangers after being dealt to them before the trade deadline by St. Louis. He finished the season with 18 goals and 32 assists for 50 points but also did miss 13 games after blocking a shot and suffering a hand injury.
It’s clear from the eye test that the Russian winger is still one of the most creative and dangerous players in the league, and his numbers from the 2021-22 season with the Blues would back that up. Tarasenko recorded his career high in assists with 48 and points with 80. He also tallied 34 goals which led St. Louis that year. These numbers are better than Tyler Bertuzzi’s 2021-22 campaign, which totaled 30 goals and 32 assists for 62 points.
A big thing that Tarasenko brings to the table is that he is extremely dangerous on the power play with the ability to shoot and be a creative and precise puck distributor. Seven seasons out of his 12-year career, he has recorded at least 15 power-play points during the season, and four times has recorded at least 20. He also has impressive career playoff numbers recording 44 goals and 20 assists for 64 points in 97 career playoff games.
Another thing to note is that Traasenko would likely be a slightly cheaper option, as he is on the north side of 30 years old and already earned a huge contract in 2015 (8 years, $60 million), while Bertuzzi is looking for his first. The price would still be high to ink the left-shot winger, but still, a factor to consider. Something else interesting in this scenario is, could the Bruins get Tarasenko to play the left wing? He plays the off-wing on the right side but shoots left; however, you would think it would be tempting for him to switch if it meant he was playing on the same line as David Pastrnak.
There are a few possible cons, however, to bringing in Tarasenko. He is sometimes known to lack effort on the back check and in the D-zone and sometimes lacks the physical aspect of the game. He also does not kill penalties and has a history of injuries that have kept him out for extended periods. That all being said, he would still be a viable option for the Bruins if they lose Bertuzzi to free agency.