Last season, the Pittsburgh Penguins sent a first-round draft pick and forward Rob Klinkhammer to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for David Perron. When he came from Edmonton, he quickly found himself on a hot streak. He was shooting the puck consistency and the points were rolling in.
However, as the 2014-15 season progressed, Perron’s play regressed.
The forward came into the 2015-16 season vowing that he would be a different player. The first 12 games of the season were not Perron’s finest as he was a minus-2 skater and produced just one goal and two assists. His struggles were noticed and Penguins head coach Mike Johnston quickly removed Perron from the top line with Sidney Crosby.
Instead of skating with Crosby, Perron was bounced around between the bottom three lines and eventually found himself playing alongside Evgeni Malkin.
Malkin, Perron and Phil Kessel have been the Penguins most productive forward line recently. In Perron’s last 12 games on this line, he’s a plus-1 skater and has scored three goals and assisted on four more. He hasn’t been the flashiest player on the team, but he’s been getting the job done.
Pittsburgh had hoped that Perron could find his 2013-14 form when he scored 57 points in 78 games, but to this point he has not lived up to expectations. In the Penguins’ last game against the San Jose Sharks, Perron had a goal and assisted on another one of Malkin’s phenomenal goals. When asked after the game about Malkin’s goal, Perron had this to say.
It’s like we’re getting used to Malkin. We’re not even talking about it, his goal, but it’s another highlight reel at a key time. That’s right up there with the last two unreal goals he had. It’s amazing
He hasn’t been the 60-plus point player that it was expected he would be alongside Malkin and Crosby, but he’s finding his niche in the Penguins lineup. He’s not a pure goal scorer and Perron does a lot of things that go unnoticed as the stars he plays with get the credit. This is where Perron has been earning his paycheck and this could impact his next contract, as he is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Perron, Malkin and Kessel are all still learning to play together and as the season continues, his point total should continue to grow. On this second line, Perron does not need to make the “splash” plays. He just needs to be aggressive on the forecheck and keep using his vision to aid Malkin and Kessel.
At the rate that he’s producing, Perron will be in the top five in scoring on the team, but will that be enough to merit a new contract in Pittsburgh? He’s in the last year of a four-year/$15.25 million contract, which counts for $3.8125 against the salary cap and it’s no secret Pittsburgh needs help on defense. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Perron is a prime candidate to be traded for defensive help. However, if he continues to support the Penguins second line, there’s a strong argument to keep him in Pittsburgh through the end of the season.