Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins made a flurry of trades which ended with David Perron coming to Pittsburgh. They initially traded defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Rob Klinkhammer. He played all of 10 games in Pittsburgh before he was traded–along with the Penguins 2015 first-round pick–to the Edmonton Oilers for Perron.
Right after the move, the trade looked like a steal for Pittsburgh. During his first eight games as a Penguin, Perron scored five times and netted seven points. However, over the last 35 games, Perron only shot the puck 82 times and posted 15 points. It was revealed that he met with Penguins’ management at the end of the season to discuss his future and there was one common theme: his skating needed to improve.
Perron spoke with Jason Mackey of The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review and had this to say about last season.
“I was probably average or below average with my skating, I did not need to be told by anyone. Of course, we talked about it. But I knew going into the last month of the season what I wanted to work on over the summer.”
However, what might have been the most important thing that Perron told Mackey was a bold claim.
“I’m going to be a different player this year.”
The biggest theme of what general manager Jim Rutherford and Perron talked about was that skating was the key to success. Perron knew his skating was sub-par last season, especially towards the end of the year. It also did not help that he was playing injured in the season finale and was ineffective during the postseason.
Perron said he suffered a rib injury in the season finale in Buffalo.
— Seth Rorabaugh (@emptynetters) April 26, 2015
Now where do the Penguins stand with Perron? At the age of 27, he is primed for a breakout year–especially if he skates with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. However, there is something to consider with his future in Pittsburgh.
Let’s take a look at Perron’s last four seasons and the respective point-per-game production.
- 2011-12 – .74 points-per-game *Contract year*
- 2012-13 – .52 points-per-game
- 2013-14 – .73 points-per-game
- 2014-15 (Edmonton) – .5 points-per-game
- 2014-15 (Pittsburgh) – .511 points-per-game
It’s quite a confusing spread and it reveals why so many fans of the St. Louis Blues and the Edmonton Oilers believe that Perron is an inconsistent player. But it is worth noting that during his last contract year, he produced at the highest rate of his career.
The 2011-12 season turned into a four-year, $15.25 million contract. There is the 2013-14 season when Perron showed the type of talent he has, but he was receiving first line minutes and was one of the only viable scoring threats in Edmonton.
What are the Penguins going to get from Perron in the upcoming season? If history repeats itself, Perron should be a phenomenal player. However, Pittsburgh should be cautious and actually consider trading Perron if he starts the season well.
According to General Fanager, the Penguins have $2 million in salary cap space, but that is with an incomplete roster. Next season the Penguins do not have a lot of free agents, but there is one key player in line for a big raise in Olli Maatta. He’s entering the final year of his entry-level contract and only counts for $894,166 against the cap. With a solid 2015-16 season, Maatta could easily sign an extension for more than $4 million a season.
The salary cap has been projected to keep going up, but it’s been slower than anticipated and a few teams are in a cap crunch because of it. Given what the Penguins had to send to acquire Perron from Edmonton, they cannot afford to lose him as a free agent.
While Perron might be a better player in the upcoming season, the source could be his contract year. There are also questions where he fits in the lineup, it’s hard to justify spending almost $4 million on a third-line wing, especially one in the prime of his career.