VANCOUVER -- Vladimir Tarasenko may be out longer than expected for the St. Louis Blues, and the forward's status could determine if the defending Stanley Cup champions will try to add a top-six forward before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24.
Tarasenko had shoulder surgery Oct. 29 and initially was expected to be out for five months. The 28-year-old has resumed skating, but general manager Doug Armstrong said Sunday the recovery could be closer to six months, which would put the return around late April.
Armstrong said the Blues will know more about Tarasenko's timeline before the deadline and need to make room under the NHL salary cap of $81.5 million if and when he comes back this season.
"Our goal is to get [Tarasenko] back as soon as possible, and we have to make sure we have space available," he said Monday in Vancouver. "If we get back to our opening day roster, that was within a few hundred thousand dollars of the salary cap, so we have to make sure we maintain that if [Tarasenko] gets to be ready, and we should know certainly well before the trade deadline on his exact timeline."
Tarasenko has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games this season and has 428 points (214 goals, 214 assists) in 507 NHL games, all with the Blues.
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Armstrong brought up Tarasenko's return while discussing the decision to assign forward Troy Brouwer to San Antonio of the American Hockey League on Monday after the 34-year-old cleared waivers. Armstrong said Brouwer, who signed a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000 on Nov. 20 after joining the Blues on a professional tryout contract, would take the week to consider his options.
St. Louis (30-11-8) plays its next four games on the road and enters its game against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday in first place in the Central Division, six points ahead of the second-place Colorado Avalanche.
"He came back with the hope to stay with our team," Armstrong said. "As our health improved, and (forward Sammy) Blais is very close to playing and whether he plays tonight, tomorrow or in Edmonton or Winnipeg, I didn't feel it was fair to bring Troy out here and then do this on the road knowing that we had extra players now. It looks like (defenseman) Colton [Parayko] will play tonight also, so we're going to be very close to our 23 (roster limit)."
Brouwer has one goal in 10 games this season with the Blues, his second stint in St. Louis. He has 363 points (182 goals, 181 assists) in 848 NHL games with the Blues, Florida Panthers, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks.
It would be Parayko's first game since Jan. 2. He missed seven games with an upper-body injury.