With no disrespect to David Perron, the news that the winger had signed once again with the St. Louis Blues last summer was met with mixed reactions. Very few were excited. Many were indifferent. Some were disgusted.
After a disappointing 2017-18 season in which the Blues missed the playoffs for the first time in over half a decade, the team’s decision to turn yet again to Perron, who had departed to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft a year prior, was simply not the impact move many were hoping to see.
But, with the benefit of hindsight, it has become clear that the four-year, $16 million contract to which the team signed Perron was not only impactful, but may have been the bargain contract of the offseason.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Perron has a unique relationship with the Blues. Despite having played for five different NHL clubs, he has never signed a contract with any other team. Drafted by St. Louis in the first round of the 2007 Draft, he spent his first six seasons playing there. It was his self-proclaimed “first love,” the city that raised him, and he always considered it his home away from home.
But hockey is, as always, a business, and Perron was traded away from his second home in 2013, just one season after signing a four-year contract with St. Louis. He was sent to the Edmonton Oilers, who sent him to the Pittsburgh Penguins a year and a half later. He was never a good fit in Pittsburgh, and was traded to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for Carl Hagelin in the final year of his contract.
When Perron hit unrestricted free agency, the Sherbrooke, Quebec native passed on an opportunity to join his childhood team, the Montreal Canadiens, and instead opted to return to St. Louis. Signing a two-year contract with an impending expansion draft, he must have known the risk, but he signed anyway and collected 46 points for the Blues in 2016-17.
What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay
Still, with just a year left of control, Perron was exposed by the Blues in the 2017 Expansion Draft. The Golden Knights pounced on the opportunity to add a perennial 40-plus point player, and added him without hesitation.
Perron had a career season with the magical Golden Knights. He recorded 66 points, far surpassing his previous career high of 57, which he reached with Edmonton in 2013-14. He played a significant role in the incredible season the Golden Knights had, and got his first opportunity to play in the Stanley Cup Final.
When he hit free agency after such a good season, Perron doubtlessly had no shortage of suitors, including the team he’d helped to the finals. But in this case, what happened in Vegas was eager to leave, because an even stronger force called him home.
Home Sweet Home
Perron certainly fielded offers from a number of teams, but as it had been in 2016, when the Blues came calling, he was quick to seize the opportunity. He rejoined his “first love” on a four-year, $16 million contract.
Nothing more to say! Thanks for the support Blues fans, you are awesome! 4 more years in a place where I’m so familiar! Cheers to everyone in St Louis you are great people https://t.co/KjWjeMLge2
— David Perron (@DP_57) July 3, 2018
For a player who collected 66 points in his free agency season, a $4 million annual cap hit isn’t high value. Even if teams assumed that the point total was inflated by the season in Vegas, he certainly had a chance to make more money elsewhere. But for Perron, money was never the issue, he wanted to go back home, explaining that his “heart has always been in St. Louis.”
For fans, the reminder that he loved St. Louis helped them to swallow the feeling that their team was out of fresh ideas. Few fans had anything against Perron, but they doubted whether yet another return by the Quebecois winger was really the key to turning their fortunes around.
But Perron has spent the 2018-19 season changing their minds. He currently has 35 points in 45 games, which puts him on-pace for 63 on the season, just shy of his 2017-18 career high. He’s found immediate chemistry with Ryan O’Reilly, the team’s other headline-grabbing addition of the offseason. He’s even currently in possession of the NHL’s longest active point streak, at 13 games.
Yes, Perron takes the occasional silly penalty, but the fans who cling to that as a reason to dismiss him are running out of ground to stand on. He has been one of the Blues’ best players this season, and he is proving general manager Doug Armstrong right for having faith in him.
In the short-term, Perron is dealing with an injury and will miss the Blues’ game Saturday evening against the Ottawa Senators. It is an upper-body injury, and isn’t expected to be serious, but it comes at the worst time as he had been red hot.
Perron (upper body) will be out tonight.
— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) January 19, 2019
In the long-term, there are three years remaining on Perron’s deal after this season, and yes, the final year of his contract lines up remarkably well with the 2021 Expansion Draft for the new Seattle franchise. Could he become the first player in sporting history to be drafted twice by an expansion team from the same franchise?
It’s possible, but we’ve got a long way to go until then. Perron has put together an extraordinary season so far, and has more than surpassed the $4 million value he signed for. Blues fans should pause and really appreciate the Perron era. It is a blessing to have a player who loves to play for your team in your city, and he’s been a huge addition to the team this season.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.