The Pittsburgh Penguins paid a hefty price last season to acquire the talented, but streaky winger David Perron. They first sent defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson to the Arizona Coyotes in return for power-forward Rob Klinkhammer. He was a member of the Penguins for just tens games before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers along with Pittsburgh’s 2015 first-round draft pick to acquire Perron.
His debut in a Penguins uniform was fantastic, he was producing at nearly a point-per-game rate. However, it would not last as Perron’s production fell and his game worsened towards the end of the season.
Many have attributed the poor play to a multitude of factors including injuries, lack of confidence and conditioning issues. Perron does have all of the physical tools to be one of the better wingers in the league, but throughout his career, he’s been wildly inconsistent. However, when you examine his point-per-game production over the last four it’s quite interesting.
- 2011-12 – .74 points-per-game *Contract year*
- 2012-13 – .52 points-per-game
- 2013-14 – .73 points-per-game
- 2014-15 (Edmonton) – .5 points-per-game
- 2014-15 (Pittsburgh) – .511 points-per-game
Besides his contract season, Perron has been an average player and some might not even consider him a top-six player, based on his point production. The only outlying season was 2013-14, but that was his first season with the Edmonton Oilers and he was one of the very few scoring threats the team had at the time. He spent a large portion of the year playing with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. As you would expect, there was a huge spike in Perron’s point production because of the skilled linemates he skated with.
What Is Perron’s Place In Pittsburgh?
Moving back to the 2015-16 season, Perron is looking to rebound in Pittsburgh. He also has a great chance to do so on a team that boasts offensive talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel and Kris Letang. However, there might be a problem with his current situation.
During the Penguins preseason action, Perron has yet to skate with Crosby or Malkin, the Penguin’s top two centers. He has spent most of his time with the presumed third line center Nick Bonino. This is not a knock on Bonino, but he is who he is and does not have anywhere near the talent of Crosby or Malkin.
Perron has played on the left-wing during his time in Pittsburgh and luckily for him, both of the Penguins top two left-wing positions are up for grabs. But it does not look like Perron will win either of them. After watching games and listening to head coach Mike Johnston, it seems that the Penguins will start the season with these top two lines.
- Chris Kunitz – Crosby – Kessel
- Sergei Plotnikov – Malkin – Patric Hornqvist
Kunitz has been around the team for a while and has excellent chemistry with Crosby. He will get the first chance to skate with the Penguins captain. Then there is the rookie Russian winger Plotnikov. He’s been a pleasant surprise and it’s pretty amazing how smoothly his game has transitioned to the smaller ice. Plotnikov has shown excellent chemistry with Malkin and it seems that Johnston will give the two Russians a chance to play together. Here’s what Johnston had to say about Plotnikov and his transition.
I know people have talked about Plotnikov. He’s fit in better and better every time I’ve seen him. He can make plays, but he’s big and strong on the puck. He hangs on to the puck down low. He protects the puck down low. There is chemistry there for sure. Most people think of European players as not being physical and being more skilled. That can be the case, but he’s a blend kind of player. He’s a hard player to play against. He’s really tough to knock off the puck. And Geno will find space. We know that.
There has been very few negative comments coming from Johnston concerning Plotnikov and it hints that he will get the first chance with Malkin.
So where does all of this leave Perron? Again this is not a knock on Bonino, but given Perron’s skill set, his talent will be wasted on the third line. He is not a player who can create offense on his own, but when surrounded with talented players, he is quite a scoring threat.
Perron is 27-years old and entering the final year of his four-year contract that will count for $3.8125 million against the salary cap. History usually repeats itself, so Perron should produce in a high rate during his contract year once again. And if you have watched any of the Penguins preseason action, you’ll know that their defensive situation is not good at the moment. They are planning on keeping eight defenders on the roster, but that does not mean that many of them are quality NHL players.
Ben Lovejoy has been exposed once again, Rob Scuderi’s foot speed is slower than ever, Sergei Gonchar has been a defensive liability and the trio of Brian Dumoulin, Derrick Pouliot and Adam Clendening all have shown potential, but are no sure thing. Clendening has looked the most NHL ready, but asking him to play inside the top-four is quite a tall task for a player with 21 career NHL games played.
The Penguins habitually make a lot of trades, it’s almost a certainty at this point, but they’re running out of tradable assets. Perron is one of the few players on the roster who could be moved for a viable top-four defender and it’s looking like the Penguins might need to make that happen. He is not a third-line player and if he has a strong season, it’s very unlikely the Penguins will have the cap space to re-sign him. Even considering that the salary cap should continue to grow, the Penguins are going to have to give defenseman Olli Maatta quite a raise from his current rookie deal. There’s no question that the Penguins value Maatta over Perron and will deal with their contracts accordingly.
David Perron could be a great player in Pittsburgh if he is utilized properly. However, do not be surprised if he is traded as the season progresses to attempt to solve the Penguins lousy defensive situation.
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