ST. LOUIS — Vladimir Tarasenko coming to the Rangers felt about as serendipitous as an NHL transaction could be.
Maybe that’s just because Patrick Kane, who followed Tarasenko to New York shortly after, was the name that always dominated the trade speculation headlines.
Yes, it was clear Tarasenko and the Blues were headed for a breakup as the Russian wing began the final year of his contract this season.
And yes, he’s a top-six right winger, which the Rangers desperately needed.
The Rangers and Tarasenko made sense, but it still felt like a borderline surprise.
“Most of the guys will tell you, we didn’t even know that was an option,” Chris Kreider told The Post back in February.
Tarasenko returned to St. Louis on Thursday for the first time since the Feb. 9 trade that ended his 11-year tenure with the club that drafted him 16th-overall in 2010.
Defenseman Niko Mikkola, who was part of the Blues’ trade package, also played his first game back in the arena he had called home since 2019-20.
Both players were acknowledged by the organization during the game, in which Tarasenko scored a game-tying, power-play goal for the Rangers in the third period of their eventual 3-2 overtime loss to the Blues Thursday night.
“That was very emotional moment for me,” Tarasenko said after the loss. “Thank you so much to the whole community. I haven’t really talked since the trade, but all the support they gave us through those 11 years was unreal. … I don’t really have words to describe how it felt.”
For such a long time, Tarasenko was the guy on the Blues.
His name is literally engraved on the cobblestone sidewalk around Enterprise Arena that commemorates the organization’s most memorable playoff moments.
He was either the Blues’ top point producer or the runner-up in six of the last eight seasons.
In the two campaigns he wasn’t, he missed significant time while battling injuries.
Tarasenko shouldered a lot of offensive responsibility during his time with the Blues.
Perhaps that’s why it’s been such a seamless transition for Tarasenko, who had seven goals and 10 assists for 17 points in 27 games with the Rangers heading into the matchup with his former club Thursday night at Enterprise Center.
Tarasenko is now part of a complement of offensive-generating forwards who are all capable of spearheading the way.
There is probably an alleviation of pressure for Tarasenko in that regard.
For context, Tarasenko was averaging 17:31 of ice time with the Blues this season before the trade.
With the Rangers, he is now hovering at 15:51, the lowest ice-time average he’s posted since his sophomore NHL season in 2013-14 (15:10).
That’s almost a whole two minutes less per game because the Rangers are built to roll all four lines and two power-play units.
There has been plenty of mix-and-matching of linemates for Tarasenko in the eight weeks he’s been a Ranger.
He’s logged the most minutes next to Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad to make up the Rangers’ top line, which has been on the ice for 11 goals and six against in 132:51, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Kreider has replaced Panarin on the left wing, too. In 116:46 of ice time, that combination has been on for three Rangers goals and just one against while getting out-attempted 56-39.
He’s also posted a mere 5:25 with Kreider and Vincent Trocheck, which is a trio that has held a 2-0 edge in scoring when on the ice.
The previous three games, however, Tarasenko has lined up with Panarin and Trocheck.
Those three have recorded 73:40 of ice time together, with three Rangers goals and three against while out-attempting opponents 44-37.
“This place will always be special in our hearts,” Tarasenko said. “We’ll always love this city.”
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