David Perron a Good Fit For Pittsburgh Penguins

On Friday the Edmonton Oilers dropped the curtain on their game plan for the rest of the season by trading left winger David Perron to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for LW Rob Klinkhammer and the Penguins’ 2015 first round draft pick.

At 26, Perron has one more year on his contract after this season with an AAV of $3.8 million.

It’s tough to be a player on the Oilers and not find yourself the subject of trade speculation or the subject of heavy criticism. Throwing young offensive-minded players into the volcano to appease the draft lottery gods is becoming an annual tradition in Edmonton. (Though, to be fair, this team is much better than in years past with the exception of their goaltending.)

What playing in Edmonton can often mask is how much a player could bring to another team. Perron is no exception. Perron can bring some solid possession stats and his play improves when you need him most.

(Also, Klinkhammer is an underrated depth forward.)

Perron: Possession Despite

Possession Despite sounds like a stat that should be used for some of the Oilers better players. “Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has good Possession Despite being on the Oilers.” “Leon Draisaitl has good Possession Despite being rushed into the NHL.” “David Perron has good Possession Despite being put on lines that won’t succeed.”

Perron has posted solid possession numbers throughout his career. Even the last two years in Edmonton, he’s had decent numbers and positive Corsi For Relative. He’s had some decent zone starts in Edmonton, but for three seasons before being dealt to the Oilers he had negative zone starts and was posting solid Corsi For Relative numbers. In fact he’s only had two seasons of his eight where he’s posted negative Corsi For Relative and one of those season he only played ten games, making it tough to really base much off.

Here are those numbers. (All stats in below tables are taken from War on Ice and Puckalytics/stats.hockeyanalysis.com).

Games 5-on-5 CF% CF Rel ZSO%Rel
2014-15 38 51.70% 2.60% 16.80%
2013-14 78 45.70% 2.50% 6.50%
2012-13 48 52.60% 0.80% -1.10%
2011-12 57 51.10% -2.20% -6.90%
2010-11 10 52% -4% -8%
2009-10 82 51.90% 1.50% 6.30%
2008-09 81 50.10% 2.80% 16.40%
2007-08 62 50.10% 4.80% 7.10%

 
If we use the zone start adjusted numbers and look at overall 5-on-5 vs 5-on-5 Close, you see him posting better possession stats in close situations.

Games FF% ZS Adj FF% Close ZS Adj
2014-15 38 48.5 49.2
2013-14 78 45.4 42.9
2012-13 48 52.4 54.5
2011-12 57 52.5 54
2010-11 10 55.5 56.9
2009-10 82 51.7 53.9
2008-09 81 51.7 51.1
2007-08 62 51.3 50

 
These numbers aren’t the full story on Perron, but it’s easy to see a player who, while not dominant, is on the right side of the play. It’s the kind of player that the Penguins could use. The Penguins are good every year, but they aren’t always a top possession team in the NHL. It’s an area they could improve in, especially with all the injuries they’re suffering through this year.

As a team they currently have a 50.9% Corsi For, 14th in the NHL despite being tied for the fourth best record in the NHL going into Friday’s games.

Scoring

Both Perron’s possession and scoring this season seems extra impressive based on his line assignments. Here are the top three line combinations Perron has found himself on this season according to Left Wing Lock.

Perron-Purcell-Arcobello (5.07% frequency)
Perron-Yakupov-Arcobello (4.67% frequency)
Perron-Draisaitl-Purcell (3.01% frequency)

With how much Edmonton has struggled this season, it’s a little surprising that there hasn’t been any real effort to see Perron play alongside Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

In fact, here are some line combinations that have happened while Perron has been saddled with Teddy Purcell, Nail Yakupov, and Leon Draisaitl. All four of these lines have happened with at least 2.59% frequency, more than any fourth combination that Perron may have found himself on. (Perron found himself playing a little with Eberle in recent games, but not enough for it to register as a line combination that has happened with more than 2% frequency this season.)

Pouliot-Eberle-Nugent-Hopkins (4.8% frequency)
Hall-Nugent-Hopkins-Purcell (3.85% frequency)
Yakupov-Eberle-Draisaitl (3.08% frequency)
Hall-Pitlick-Nugent-Hopkins (2.59% frequency)

It’s surprising because Hall, Nugent-Hopkins, and Eberle are the team’s three leading scorers and Perron leads the team in assists. He’s fourth in overall points and fourth in goals, behind those three in both categories.

Here’s a look at Perron’s production over his career.

Games Goals Assists G/60 A/60 First A/60 P/60 Shots/60
2014-15 38 5 14 0.57 1.14 0.57 1.72 6.3
2013-14 78 28 29 0.88 1.03 0.67 1.91 8.52
2012-13 48 10 15 0.72 0.9 0.27 1.61 5.47
2011-12 57 21 21 0.98 0.91 0.6 1.89 5.37
2010-11 10 5 2 2.33 0.47 0.47 2.79 6.97
2009-10 82 20 27 0.78 1.01 0.95 1.79 7.04
2008-09 81 15 35 0.77 1.53 0.97 2.3 7.66
2007-08 62 13 14 0.85 1.03 0.75 1.88 4.7

 
Here’s how those rates rank among players who played at least 200 minutes in each of those seasons.

Games P/60 Rank P/60 (775-800) Shots/60 Rank Shot/60
2014-15 38 1.72 126 of 576 6.3 236 of 576
2013-14 78 1.91 92 of 674 8.52 83 of 674
2012-13 48 1.61 164 of 612 5.47 312 of 612
2011-12 57 1.89 105 of 676 5.37 378 of 676
2010-11 10 2.79 (played <200 min.) 6.97 (played <200 min.)
2009-10 82 1.79 131 of 664 7.04 135 of 664
2008-09 81 2.3 52 of 658 7.66 159 of 658
2007-08 62 1.88 103 of 664 4.7 418 of 664

 
He’s putting up respectable point totals despite usage in some years and despite some mediocre lines this year. He’s not a player who takes a lot of shots, though it’s notable that his first season in Edmonton he ranked 83rd in the league in shots/60 minutes. It seems as though if he’s given some better linemates that he’s far from being on the decline. Perron is capable of a lot more and he might have the chance to do that in Pittsburgh.

A Bird in the Hand

Edmonton doesn’t have a stellar history of developing players. I’m not just talking about the decision to keep Draisaitl from returning to juniors or playing in the World Juniors Championships or everything that’s happened with Yakupov. It’s a legacy at this point. See: Shane Sander’s piece on Jason Bonsignore.

Rebuilding is a strategy. We’ve seen it work. But Edmonton has been rebuilding for years. It’s hard to see that as the best road for Edmonton. What’s the obvious solution? Who knows. There isn’t really one. They’ve got a mess over there. It’s hard to know what will turn things around. But the Oilers have also got a lot of talent on their team and there’s a lot of proof that they’re a better team than they’ve been in recent years. Is the trade of Perron indicative of a full reset or are they just looking to bolster future depth again with it looking like another year lost to mediocrity? It could be a good decision, but as some point you have to stop stockpiling first round picks and go with your team.

A first round draft pick this year is worth a lot. It looks to be an incredibly deep draft year that will involve players who could be generational talent. But we know right now that David Perron is a NHLer. He has 456 NHL games behind him, is still producing at a great rate, and is only 26. Trading NHL talent for draft picks over and over seems like a losing strategy once you’ve already gone that route for years and it hasn’t worked. The Oilers have cleared a lot of cap space in this deal and maybe there’s another move coming. That can’t be counted out, but it’s hard to know that more draft picks will work this time for Edmonton when it hasn’t worked in the first attempt at a rebuild under what is essentially the same management team.

For Pittsburgh, this is a great deal for right now. Perron isn’t strictly a rental. He has another year on his contract and could find himself thriving on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh has given up a first round pick, which always hurts, but this is a move that aids their Stanley Cup chances this year and next at a minimum.