In a move that took me by surprise initially, but made more sense as I looked into it, the St. Louis Blues sent winger David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (although he doesn’t use Svensson anymore) and a second round draft pick in the 2014 draft.
I say it took me by surprise because Perron is a pretty good hockey player and seemed to fit in with what the Blues are trying to do i.e. win a Stanley Cup. However, with the team only having about $13M in salary cap space remaining with Alex Pietrangelo and Chris Stewart left to sign as restricted free agents, they needed to free up some money.
This is a pretty significant trade. Perron is a player that has a wealth of skill, just take a look:
The Edmonton Oilers were not lacking more scoring depth, and Perron is one more piece for that offensive juggernaut. This probably puts the writing on the wall for Ales Hemsky of the Oilers to get traded as their top-six is pretty crowded now and he’s owed $5M. That, however, is another topic for another day. So what did each team get in this trade?
Every fan of a sport has a handful of players they follow year in and year out and, whether they realize it or not, they peg as “their guys.” For me, Perron is one of those guys. I was able to catch a game of his when he was playing in the Québec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and even back then you could tell he had a very high skill level – he ended up leading his team in points that season.
Since he came into the league, Perron has been one of the top producers for the Blues. Because he’s played six seasons already (of varying lengths), it’s easy to forget that he was just 24 years old when the season started this year.
Perron has typically been a good possession player in his career while facing some of the best competition that the other team has. Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish talked about this in his press conference. When you combine a good possession player with hands that can stickhandle in a phone booth, you get a player every team salivates over. A side-benefit of this is that a player like Perron can help his team in ways beyond the score-sheet as well; Perron led the Blues in penalties drawn per 60 minutes in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 while finishing in the top five on the Blues in this category each of the last two years. There are two things that will come to my mind if I see a player with consistently high rates of penalties drawn; either they are a super-pest who can sucker other teams into taking penalties (ahem, Brad Marchand) or they have a high skill level that is too much for the other team to handle. Perron falls into the latter category.
I would be dishonest if I didn’t mention Perron’s lengthy injury history. He missed all but 10 games in 2010-2011 due to a concussion and that issue carried into the next season when he didn’t return to NHL game action until December. Concussions are a sensitive topic and he’s already had such severe issues that it kept him away from the game for 13 months at the ages of 21 and 22. This is concerning for his personal health and also for any team that employs him, so it’s a pretty big gamble to give up two assets to acquire his services.
Edmonton did what teams should be doing by now; adding players that have traditionally been good at puck possession, something Edmonton has been absolutely brutal at the last few seasons. They got a good one in Perron who should fit in very well with all the top-end talent the Oilers have. It’s just a matter of whether he can stay on the ice.
There’s a fairly common misconception that is prevalent in the hockey world regarding Paajarvi; that he’s not developing to the level expected of a 10th overall pick. However, he’s been pretty good at even-strength when given the opportunity and even had as many points as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in 5 on 5 play this year. He had 45 points in 72 career games in the AHL as a 19 and 20-year old so it’s not like he doesn’t have any skill, he does. He also has size, at 6’3” and over 200 lbs, so he can provide something that St. Louis is lacking a bit up front.
Paajarvi, much like former teammate Nail Yakupov, really came on strong at the end of last year. After starting the season with just two points in his first 15 games, he finished with 14 points in his final 27 games. Also, like any player who is actually decent at hockey, he needs line-mates to play with; he spent about 20% of his 5 on 5 time last year playing with Teemu Hartikainen – who is no longer in the NHL – and Eric Bélanger, a player who had his contract bought out this summer by the Oilers. This time-well-wasted produced just one point for Paajarvi. While he maintained decent possession numbers with these players, a lot of this is due to quality of competition; he just wasn’t facing tough competition when playing with Hartikainen or Bélanger. It would appear that Paajarvi is actually a pretty good hockey player and can play tough minutes, he just can’t spend his time toiling on the fourth line with bad hockey players. This is something I call “The Grabovski Effect”.
Paajarvi is a restricted free-agent so he’s still owed a contract from the Blues. My best guess would be that he gets a “show-me” contract of either one or two years rather than a four or five year deal. If he gets the opportunity to play with good players – and he should, seeing as St. Louis’ third line could have any of Patrik Berglund, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, among others – he should flourish. This is a good hockey player, he just needs the chance to really show it.
I like this deal for both teams and it’s not often I say that. St. Louis frees up probably a couple of million dollars in cap space, gets back a good young player and a second round pick to go with it. Edmonton gets a highly-skilled top-six forward that can help rectify a problem that has been plaguing their franchise for years now. It was a gamble for both teams in different respects, but gambles that could very well pay off.