Vladimir Tarasenko was back on the ice with his teammates today when the St. Louis Blues hit the ice in Arizona, a great sign as he continues to recover from his latest shoulder surgery. On February 3, Blues GM Doug Armstrong told reporters that his Russian sniper was still weeks away, but things were promising. Seeing him in a regular practice jersey with his teammates indicates that his return isn’t as far away as it once seemed.
When he is healthy enough to return, the question will be how exactly the Blues fit him in. The team is currently more than $7MM into their long-term injured reserve relief and though Alex Steen’s $5.75MM cap hit covers a lot of that, adding Tarasenko back onto the books won’t be easy. That has led to the trade chatter surrounding Vince Dunn increasing again, this time with some additional cap-clearing motivation.
- Speaking of West Division forwards that are coming back from offseason surgery, the Minnesota Wild had Mats Zuccarello back at practice for the first time today, according to Michael Russo of The Athletic. Zuccarello is only in the second season of a five-year, $30MM contract for the Wild, meaning his return to form would be a crucial boost for a team fighting to make the postseason. At his best, Zuccarello has been a top playmaking winger that can elevate the performance of his linemates. Whether the 33-year-old can get back to that level is not at all clear.
- Zach Werenski is expected to be back in the lineup on Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks, or at least that is what Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella implied to reporters today, including Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. Werenski has missed the last three games with a lower-body injury and is off to a rather slow start this season with just four points in 12 games. After scoring 20 goals and 41 points in just 63 games last season, big things were expected of the fifth-year defenseman.