Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Blues trade Perron to Edmonton

By Andrew Allsman| Posted: July 10, 2013| Contact  |

Just when it seemed as though things had gone silent, the Blues woke up the National Hockey League with a bang. The club announced that it had traded forward David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for young winger Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 second-round draft pick.

The move was made official on Wednesday afternoon, five days after free agency opened.  The Blues were active in the first two days of free agency, signing four centers to deals. One of those centers, Derek Roy, will cost the Blues $4 million next season. The club was lurking extremely close to the $64.3 million salary cap ceiling. The trade allows the Blues to save money and bring in some young talent. But Blues general manager Doug Armstrong explained that the move wasn't made just to keep the Blues under the salary cap.

“We certainly didn't make this trade just for salary cap purposes,” he said. “We wanted to add a player that we think fits into our organization where we are today and where we are moving forward. We think (Paajarvi) is just starting to enter the really good part of his career. We think he brings an element to our team that we don’t have.”

When Armstrong elaborated, he talked about the Blues targeting some speed this offseason. He felt that Paajarvi satisfied the club’s need for quickness, while fitting in with the Blues’ other big-bodied forwards.

“The way our team is situated now, we have a number of players about the same size, and about the same stature,” he said. “ (It was good) for us to bring in a six-foot-three, 210-pound, left winger that is just starting to understand his potential.”

“One of the things we wanted to improve was our speed, and I think bringing in Paajarvi does help that. It does free up some cap space for future deals that we have to accomplish, and it’s a good deal for both teams.”

The Blues are still negotiating new deals with forward Chris Stewart and defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Stewart elected to file for arbitration on Wednesday, so the club know which direction negotiations with Stewart are going. With Pietrangelo, the two sides continue to try to find some common ground. Both players will be looking for raises which is why the Blues had to shed some salary. That shedding came in the form of Perron.

Perron, 25, who signed a four-year extension with the Blues in the 2012 offseason, was set to make $3.5 million next year. The Blues save $12.25 million over the next three years by trading Perron. Paajarvi, 22, is coming off of his three-year entry-level contract. He is a restricted-free agent, but the Blues now own his rights. He will be significantly cheaper than Perron.

Armstrong expects Paajarvi to contend for a spot on one of the top three lines. He wouldn't wager a bet as to where Paajarvi would fit best, but he said it will be established in September during training camp. Head coach Ken Hitchcock will be the determiner.

“We view him coming in and competing in our group of nine. We have been more of a group of nine more than your prototypical one, two three, four line team. We have had a group of nine that was pretty interchangeable and ‘Hitch’ has used them as interchangeable parts. How Ken (Hitchcock) decides to use him will basically be up to the player.”

While Perron was one of the Blues’ top-six forwards, the club feels Paajarvi has enough upside to replace Perron in the coming seasons.

Perron is offensively-skilled, but his questionable penalties and poor defensive play placed him in the doghouse for a large portion of last season. However, Armstrong shot down any suggestions that Hitchcock’s defense-first system was uncomfortable to Perron.

“I don’t believe there was an issue there,” said Armstrong. “(Perron) scored very well under Ken’s system when he returned from his concussion. Last year he didn't produce as much offensively as he did the year before but that seemed to be a universal thing with our group. I think David is a dynamic player and he has an unbelievable skill set that sometimes takes time to get used to playing with. I think David will fit into any system because he wants to be a good player.”

Perron has spent six seasons with the Blues since being drafted in the first round (26th overall) of the 2007 NHL draft. Perron’s best NHL season was the 2008-09 campaign when he had 15 goals, 50 points in 81 games. Perron’s biggest issue the past few seasons has been his health. In 2010, Perron was diagnosed with a concussion that sidelined him for the remainder of that season, and a large portion of the following season. But Perron came back in style, scoring a goal in his Dec. 3 return against the rival Blackhawks. Perron played in 57 games in 2011-12 after his recovery, and had 42 points.

In his most recent campaign with the Blues, which was shortened due to the NHL lockout, Perron had 10 goals, 25 points in 48 games. But Perron ended the season with just one goal in the final 22 regular season games.

Armstrong was rumored to be shopping Perron earlier this offseason, but nothing came to fruition. When the Blues signed Roy nearly a week ago, it was assumed that one of the Blues forwards would be on their way out of St. Louis.

Paajarvi was drafted two years after Perron, in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. He was selected by the Oilers 10th overall. Since that time, Paajarvi has spent three seasons with Edmonton. He has 163 games of experience, as well as 58 points (26 goals, 32 assists).

Paajarvi also played with one of his new teammates in Patrik Berglund during the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships. Paajarvi and Berglund were a part of a Sweden team that made it to the Gold Medal Game. Paajarvi also is the youngest player to ever play for Sweden.

“We saw them (Paajarvi and Berglund) playing at the World Junior Hockey Championships together and they had a very dynamic team,” said Armstrong. “They played in the Gold Medal Game and both of those players were very good. But this trade wasn't based on his ability to play with just one player. “

Word out of Edmonton is that Paajarvi doesn't go to the dirty areas of the ice enough, and is too much of a perimeter player. The young forward will have to learn to go to the net more under Hitchcock’s system, but the critique from Edmonton does not worry Armstrong and the Blues.

“We are a league that puts young players in a position to fail, not succeed, far too often,” admitted Armstrong. “When you put an 18-year old player into a man’s league and ask him to be a physical force, that is a very daunting task. I think maturity and time allows these players to really grow into their bodies and understand the game that they need to play. I think he is an evolving player.”

Perron’s skillset will certainly be appreciated in Edmonton. He will be added to a lineup with several deadly threats in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, and more. Paajarvi, who Armstrong says is headed in the right direction, will be surrounded by players with a lot of skill as well. It may take several years to determine who won the trade, but currently, both sides view it as a win-win deal.