What the all-in Florida Panthers get in Vladimir Tarasenko

Ottawa Senators GM Steve Staios breaks down the decision to trade forward Vladimir Tarasenko to the Florida Panthers stating his expiring contract and a need to acquire future assets as main catalysts for the trade.

Bill Zito has earned himself a reputation for being a fearless player in the trade market, seeking to aggressively push forward a Florida Panthers franchise that for years had been unable to find the playoffs, or playoff success.

So it’s not at all surprising that Zito is active at this trade deadline, acquiring scorer Vladimir Tarasenko from the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday for a conditional 2024 fourth-rounder and a 2025 third-round pick. If Florida wins the Stanley Cup this season, that fourth-rounder converts into a 2026 third-rounder.

Without much in the way of prospect or draft pick capital, it’s a win for the Panthers that they were able to pick up this level of player to add scoring depth without moving anyone from the roster. It’s a further bonus that one of these picks was the charge for Ottawa to retain 50 per cent of Tarasenko’s expiring contract, meaning two things: 1) Tarasenko counts for $2.5 million against Florida’s cap and, 2) the Panthers still have $3.1 million in AAV space to use by Friday, per CapFriendly. That retention leaves open the possibility that Florida can still do more work.

The problem, of course, will be a lack of assets. The Panthers were rumoured to be in on the defence market, including for Noah Hanifin, but that would be a costly pick up especially if he came with an extension. In that scenario, Anton Lundell’s name has appeared in rumours. Part of these considerations is that Florida has two important pending UFAs on the back end with Brandon Montour and Gustav Forsling set to hit free agency in July. Somehow that blue line will need to be massaged or rebuilt just as Sam Reinhart is also due a notable raise as a pending UFA forward having a career season.

It’s worth pointing out that the major move Zito made that set up last year’s team to go to the Stanley Cup Final, acquiring Matthew Tkachuk from Calgary, was a summer deal and that Florida’s 2023 trade deadline was rather quiet. In 2022, when Florida poured out assets to acquire pending UFAs Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot, they won their first playoff round in 26 years and then were swept aside by Tampa Bay.

This year’s Panthers come with the highest of expectations and are currently the top-ranked team in the NHL. In Tarasenko, the Panthers get a former 40-goal veteran who won a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues in 2019. He’s not the top-line, game-breaking sniper he once was, but in the middle of the lineup Tarasenko is still fully capable of being a key contributor and a timely goal scorer with a wicked shot.

For Ottawa, this trade return will be underwhelming. It underlines the winding down of another disappointing season and the prospect of bigger changes on the horizon. The Tarasenko deal won’t indicate what’s next for the Senators’ big picture, as this was a rental deal everyone expected. But, surely, they were hoping for a happier ending than this when they signed Tarasenko last summer.

For more on what the 32-year-old right winger brings to Florida, we turn to our scout Jason Bukala.


The Panthers add more scoring depth to their roster with the addition of Tarasenko.

Tarasenko was one of the more consistent players in Ottawa this season, where he averaged 16 minutes a game. All of his ice time came at even strength and the power play. He played to his identity, producing secondary offence with 17 goals and 24 assists, and he was an impressive plus-13. The majority of his scoring came at even strength (15G-18A), which bodes well heading down the stretch towards the playoffs.

I describe him as a “2.5”, meaning he’s capable of skating in the top six, but even more dangerous when he’s slotted on the third line. Either way, he has the potential to make the Panthers an even more difficult team to check overall.

The Panthers are a heavy and physical team to play against. Tarasenko won’t add a layer of physicality — he was only credited with 54 hits and 30 shot blocks in Ottawa — but he should benefit from the extra space created by teammates around him.

Here are two examples of what Tarasenko can bring offensively to the Panthers:

The first clip is self-explanatory. Tarasenko rips a one-timer from the deep flank on the power play. It’s a goal scorer’s goal.

The second clip is an example of Tarasenko reading the play below the goal line. He seals off the boards and eliminates an outlet option for the Jets defenders. When the puck arrives on his stick he makes a crafty, around-and-under-the-stick pass to Parker Kelly for the tuck.

Jason Bukala is a former NHL scouting director and founder of The Pro Hockey Group

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