St Louis Blues star Vladimir Tarasenko will undergo shoulder surgery for the third time in less than three years, putting his availability for the start of next season in question, general manager Doug Armstrong revealed on Wednesday.
Armstrong said NHL Stanley Cup champion and three-time All-Star Tarasenko will have another procedure on his troublesome left shoulder next week and will be re-evaluated after a five-month period.
The NHL has tentatively scheduled the 2020-21 season to begin on December 1, though that start date could be pushed back by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Tarasenko was limited to only 10 regular-season games in 2019-20 after undergoing a second surgery in October.
The 28-year-old did return when the NHL resumed play earlier this month, but did not record a point in four games and was sent back to St Louis from the Edmonton bubble following Game 2 of the Blues' first-round playoff series against the Vancouver Canucks.
"He was very limited [when he returned]," Armstrong said. "He rehabbed, he came back, we had to do another MRI. He wasn't feeling good. That [second] surgery didn't take the way that we had hoped, it wasn't successful.
"It's certainly not a positive that we're going through right now. We just know he prepares and trains hard and needs to get back and play well for us. It's a concern in the sense that he's going to have three surgeries."
Meanwhile, Tarasenko insisted his career is not over, saying: "To take some speculation away, no, I'm not done, my career is not done. Now I am more motivated than ever to finally get healthy and play."
Tarasenko's first shoulder operation occurred in April 2018. He returned to score 33 goals in 76 games during the 2018-19 regular season, then added 11 more goals in 26 postseason games to help the Blues win their first Stanley Cup championship.
Heading into the 2019-20 campaign, Tarasenko was one of only two players to record 30 or more goals in each of the five previous seasons along with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin.
Tarasenko's injury is one of several issues facing Armstrong this offseason. He reiterated his desire to re-sign captain Alex Pietrangelo – who is set to be an unrestricted free agent – but the Blues currently have little financial flexibility with the salary cap expected to remain flat in 2020-21.
"I think the first phase is going to be find out if we can find common ground with Alex," he said. "If we can, then we go to work to move other pieces. If we can't find common ground with Alex, then there's really no need to do anything."