When David Perron returned to game action in December 2011 after missing 13 months with a concussion, he produced like he had never left.
And though his points dropped this past season, Perron was still an effective offensive performer for the St. Louis Blues.
Now Perron could get a chance to add even more on offence after being traded to the Edmonton Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round pick. In Edmonton, the 25-year-old will be part of a young core of skilled players along with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov.
“There’s a ton of players with a lot of skills,” Perron said in a phone interview. “I think it’s a real nice fit for me. It’s that type of game that I want to play that I feel like I got to the NHL that way, and that’s how I’ll have the most success.”
Perron had 10 goals and 15 assists in 48 games last season, doing so in a more conservative system under coach Ken Hitchcock. Blues general manager Doug Armstrong believes Perron can thrive in any system, but the Oilers’ one might fit particularly well.
“He’s a guy who has a skill set that’ll be better suited to playing the game the way that we want to play the game,” Oilers GM Craig MacTavish said in a radio interview with AM-630 in Edmonton. “There’s going to be more attack opportunities, more rush opportunities.
“This guy has potentially one of the best set of hands in the league.”
Perron is expected to play left wing with the Oilers and will be counted on to kill penalties and help out on the offensive end, as well. In 340 games with the Blues, he had 84 goals and 114 assists.
“I think that David, he’s a dynamic player, and he has an unbelievable skill-set that sometimes takes a little bit of time to get used to playing with ... for his teammates to get to understand his nuances,” Armstrong said on a conference call.
Perron has three more years left on his contract that counts just over US$3.8 million against the salary cap. The Blues need to free up space to sign restricted-free-agent defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, but Armstrong said the deal had more to do with diversifying at forward.
“(How) our team is situated right now we have a number of players about the same size and about the same stature,” Armstrong said, referring to Vladimir Tarasenko, Ty Rattie, Dmitrij Jaskin and Jaden Schwartz. “For us to bring in a six-foot-three, 210-pound left-winger that we think is just starting to understand his potential, he’s 22 years old, one of the areas we wanted to try to improve was our speed, and I think that bringing in Paajarvi is going to help that.”
Paajarvi had nine goals and seven assists in 42 games for the Oilers last season. He’s a restricted free agent, but Armstrong said he liked that the Blues had the young winger’s rights for the next four years.
“We view him coming in and competing in our group of nine,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had nine forwards that are interchangeable and (coach Ken Hitchcock) has used them as interchangeable parts playing different guys with different players. Our team is built on balance and we think he has an opportunity to come in here and provide an element that we don’t have right now.”
In Perron, the Oilers get a more polished NHL player than they have in Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Yakupov. MacTavish singled out Perron’s willingness to go to the dirty areas to score goals, but acquiring a six-foot playmaker doesn’t do anything to add physicality to the mix of skill already in Edmonton.
“We’re a team that really is pretty far down the path of playing a more skill, puck-possession game, a team that has to rely on quickness more so than bulk,” MacTavish told the Oilers’ website. “We’re a team that’s got to play quick.”
Perron fits there.
MacTavish expressed some concern over the concussion that cost Perron over a year of his career, but playing 57 games the rest of the 2011-12 season and all 48 this season went a long way to assuaging any fears.
But this was a trade of need for need. The Oilers got more experienced, while the Blues got a player with perhaps some more potential.
“It’s a good deal for both teams, at least that’s what Craig and I both hope,” Armstrong said. “David’s a dynamic offensive player and has had success in the past. We think Magnus is just entering the guts of his career now, and we’re looking forward to him being a Blue.”