Tank Finds Way to St. Louis
Vladimir Tarasenko begins skating with future NHL teammates today in St. Louis, how long he remains in North America remains to be seen. I’m told Tarasenko has an open-ended airline ticket with no exact plans of circling back across the globe.
In the event of an NHL lockout it appears Tarasenko would prefer to begin the season in his native country playing in the KHL. As of today St. Petersburg SKA holds his KHL rights and as I’ve written before he’d prefer to play with Novosibirsk, his hometown club. It doesn’t appear St. Petersburg is any hurry to grant his request and move him anytime soon. How this affects his immediate playing future is unclear.
One thing we do know, Tarasenko has signed his NHL contract and will suit up for the St. Louis Blues once the absurd ongoing labor dispute between the NHL and its players is resolved. For months the idea of Tarasenko beginning the season in Peoria and playing in the AHL seemed like wishful thinking for both the Blues and their fans. In fact sources close to Tarasenko informed me just a few weeks ago that he would begin the season in the KHL. Which still could happen, but as long as St. Petersburg SKA has his KHL rights it opens the door for other possibilities.
It doesn’t make sense to sit here and say one way or another as any information we gather from Russia can be sketchy. You rarely know if you’re getting the real story but based off of the information I’ve gathered it looks like “the Tank” will seriously considering staying in North America if current KHL situation doesn’t change.
There are many factors and benefits of playing in the KHL vs. the AHL. Most notably the multi-million salary he could earn playing over there. His AHL salary would be peanuts compared to what he would make in Russia. Although opinions vary, many hockey people believe the KHL is a superior league to the AHL. While this may or may not be true, the AHL is pretty strong and will only benefit from an NHL lockout with several entry-level players beginning the season in the minors. There’s something to be gained by playing on the smaller ice surface while also adjusting to the language and the North American culture.
Then again there’s the pressure he’ll face from family members in Russia who want see him play.
Today marks somewhat of a milestone. There’s always a risk when drafting a Russian-born player as the chance of him never coming over is certainly real. The good news is that Tarasenko is here and fully focused on beginning the next chapter of his hockey life. The Blues will do everything they can to make him feel wanted including rolling out the red carpet for a Thursday press conference. You can be sure the “Tank” will be incorporated in some of the Blues promotional efforts although GM Doug Armstrong has always been cautious when it comes to over-hyping young players.
The trek to get to the United States was no easy haul for Tarasenko. He flew four hours from Novosibirsk to Moscow, after a three hour layover he flew five hours from Moscow to London, another three hour layover before a nine hour flight to Chicago, followed by another two hour layover prior to landing in St. Louis.
The Tank officially rolls in Thursday morning during a 10:00 am news conference.
Tarasenko officially arrived over the weekend and toured the Blues facility on Saturday.
Congrats to former Blues D-man Jamie Rivers who will be the inaugural Head Coach of the St. Charles Chill beginning in 2013. Since retiring from hockey, rivers spent the last year working with Northern Edge Hockey where’s he’s become a leading hockey instructor in the area. A former OHL standout and 3rd round NHL draft pick Rivers has never served as a Head Coach before. He’s a smart hockey man, well liked throughout the community, and driven to coach at the pro level. This is a good hire for an organization who will look to use the next year to establish themselves in the area. The team will play out of the Family Arena.
More to come,