It might not be such a secret anymore after the Sherbrooke, Quebec native scored a hat trick in Game 1 of the playoffs, but David Perron is one of the most important players on the St. Louis Blues. Playing in his third tenure with the Blues, the only team he’s ever signed a contract with, Perron — who will turn 34 on May 28 — has been playing some of the best hockey of his career over the last several seasons. And his skills were fully on display in Monday night’s tilt against the Minnesota Wild.
Perron fired home three nearly-identical goals from the left wing, putting each past his good friend Marc-André Fleury after they rebounded off the future Hall of Fame goaltender’s pads. But he was far from just a goal scorer. It was a trademark Perron performance: three goals, an assist, and four penalty minutes from trying a little too hard to agitate his opponents. But in the end, no one will remember the penalties: they’ll recall the goals, a trademark performance for the team’s secret weapon, and one of the most underrated players in franchise history.
Aging Like Fine Wine
The Blues drafted Perron late in the first round in 2007, and he quickly became one of the young guns that desperate fans hoped would pull the team back from the toughest stretch in franchise history. It didn’t take long for him to get his shot, as he’d play 62 games in the 2007-08 season, scoring 13 goals and adding 14 assists. In his first stretch with the Blues, Perron produced 198 points in 340 games. He was a reliable scorer and a constant nuisance to the other team, but something didn’t quite feel right, and the Blues chose to trade him to the Edmonton Oilers on July 10, 2013.
Perron would find his way back to St. Louis via free agency, as soon as his contract expired, after stops with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Ducks. Signing a two-year contract, he returned to the Blues and immediately fit back into the rotation, scoring 18 goals and 46 points in an 82-game season in 2016-17. But with one season remaining on his deal, he became a casualty of the expansion draft, as the Blues exposed him and the Vegas Golden Knights selected Perron for their inaugural roster.
The move to the desert would prove to be a pivotal one for the then-28-year-old winger. He immediately found chemistry with his new teammates and posted career numbers: 66 points with 16 goals in 70 games. He helped Vegas reach the Stanley Cup Final, but the team’s immediate success came with a cost: they could not afford to keep their prized free agents like Perron and James Neal. Once again a free agent, Perron took the opportunity to return yet again to the city he calls his “first love,” signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Blues, a contract that is set to expire after this season.
In this case, what happened in Vegas did not stay there, and the renewed form Perron found with the Golden Knights carried over to his new home. Part of that came by building immediate chemistry with new teammate Ryan O’Reilly — the pair have been linemates virtually the entire time since both arrived before the 2018-19 season. Perron helped the Blues finish what he started with Vegas, winning the Stanley Cup in 2019. In 251 games during his current stint with St. Louis, he has 94 goals and 221 points. Last season, he became the first point per game player for the Blues since Pavol Demitra in 2002-03. Now back in the playoffs, the Blues will hope that Perron continues to provide his characteristic mixture of skill and sleaze, annoying the opposition with both his talent and his mouth.
The Perfect Playoff Player
Perron’s skill set is ideally calibrated for playoff hockey. At 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, he is no shrinking violet when it comes to physicality. He delivered 118 hits this season, the third-highest mark of his career. Though he has a reputation for taking bone-headed penalties — he has 48 this season and 718 in a 973 game career – those same mind game tactics are treated with more leeway in the postseason.
Monday night, his aggression got the better of him and he drew two penalties, serving four minutes in the box. But behind the annoying taunts, unnecessary facewashes, and rulebreaking gamesmanship, sometimes the other team forgets just how extraordinary a player Perron is. In this case, he used his leeway to score three goals, his first postseason hat trick, each one a virtual carbon copy of the one before it. With four points on the night, he contributed to each goal the Blues scored, and his two penalties hardly cost the team, which killed six during the game and pitched a shutout.
The final result showed just how valuable a player Perron can be. To quote an old sports cliche, he is the embodiment of the type of player you love to play alongside and hate to play against. He can be a nuisance that gets under your skin so deep that you forget he’s a super-talented hockey player. And if the Blues are going to go far in the playoffs, he will need to continue walking that line for many games to come.
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.