David Perron’s Stint in Vegas Exactly What Blues Needed

After 12 years in the NHL, 5 different teams, and his 3rd time with the Blues, forward David Perron finally hoisted his first-ever Stanley Cup. (Photo courtesy: Patrick Smith, Getty Images)

For one French-Canadian winger, the magic words were “Third time’s the charm”.

It’s no secret anymore that David Perron has silently become one of the greatest playmaking wingers in Blues franchise history. After coming back to St. Louis three separate times over his 13-year career, the 31-year-old French-Canadian has played almost 500 games donning the Blue note, while amassing almost 500 career points and 300 assists.

Finally, “Frenchie’s” efforts were rewarded in June 2019 when he won the Stanley Cup with the team he was drafted with. It wasn’t his first year in the Final, and the numbers he put up that season weren’t even his best (though he missed a third of the season with an injury). His most prolific year came as he hit the 30-year mark with a brand-new team expected to do absolutely nothing – the infant Vegas Golden Knights. Most people might have expected him to fade into NHL obscurity.

Instead, Perron landed a career-high 50 assists and 66 points in 70 games, getting all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the team’s first year. However, while everyone was focused on Cup Champion Marc-Andre Fleury, scoring phenom William Karlsson or newfound leader Jonathan Marchessault, Perron seemed to tally up the points like a ghost. And after contract negotiations fell through, Perron would re-sign with his draft team in St. Louis for the third time.

Little did he – or anyone – realize, that third contract with St. Louis would fruition to his first-ever Stanley Cup, thereby immortalizing “DP57” into hockey history.

Perron’s Beginnings

In 2007, the St. Louis Blues were in the midst of a full rebuild. After a few laughably horrible seasons, the Blues acquired more first-round draft picks in one season than any time before. With three (albeit deep) picks in the first round, the Blues selected Lars Eller, Ian Cole, and David Perron, who went 26th overall.

Lars Eller played a whopping 7 games as a Blue before he broke out in Montreal (and eventually won the Cup with Washington). Ian Cole played as a depth blueliner for 5 seasons (167 GP) with St. Louis before he was traded to Pittsburgh for Robert Bortuzzo, where Cole would win two Cups in a row in ’16 and ’17.

Finally, we get to Perron, who lit up the QMJHL as a Lewiston Maineiac with 39 goals and 83 points, and won the President’s Cup for Lewistown that year (in playoffs that also featured Brad Marchand and Kris Letang). Once he got more ice time, the French-Canadian was incredible for the Blues out the gate, perennially top-5 in scoring for the Blues (when he was healthy). In just his second year, he scored 15 goals and 50 points. Perron was a huge boost to the rebuild over the next few seasons that got St. Louis back into the playoffs from ’08-13.

However, that healthiness was a big asterisk. In early 2010, Perron suffered a concussion after a nasty elbow hit from Joe Thornton, which sidelined the forward for 13 months. When he finally returned for next season, he scored 42 points in 57 games but struggled to keep up the pace, with 25 points in 48 games in ‘12-13.

Perron was traded next offseason to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi (yes, I did a double-take as well) and a 4th-rounder. David played well on the left-wing for the Oilers – alongside a little-known player by the name of Taylor Hall – where he tallied a career-high 28 goals in a full season.

However, after just 5 goals in 38 games with Edmonton in 2014-15, was shipped off as a trade deadline piece to Pittsburgh, where the Pens gave the Oilers Rob Klinkhammer and their first-round pick in the 2015 draft. Klinkhammer never amassed more than 9 points in a season, but that 2015 draft pick? Eventual Islanders phenom Mat Barzal, which resulted in a loss-loss situation for both Perron and the Penguins.

Perron’s Fall… And Return

What transpired next were the darkest times of Perron’s career. He scored 58 points split between Pittsburgh and Anaheim over a season and a half. Perron had career-lows his second year in Pittsburgh (.37 pts/g) and was eventually traded to Anaheim for Carl Hagelin, while he watched his former team win two consecutive Stanley Cups. He returned to St. Louis for the second time as a free agent and had a nice resurgence, scoring 46 points.

However, with the Blues “missing” their Stanley Cup window the previous season, and assets like Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny traded away, Perron was one of few players left unsecured, contractually, for the Vegas expansion draft. Perron was sent to the Golden Knights on what was likely the now 29-year-old’s last trip into hockey obscurity.

Then, something rather celestial happened.

The Vegas Golden Knights stunned the hockey world by dominating the Pacific Division and riding one of the best expansion records in NHL history. They reached the Stanley Cup Final in their first year on the back of three-time Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury and the improbable William Karlsson, and they did it the hard way. Sadly, the Knights fell short to the Washington Capitals, but no one was joking about the Golden Knights anymore.

Perron’s 3rd Chance

All the while, the “aging” Perron – like a ghost – played his best hockey ever. He tallied a career-high (and team-high) 50 assists for Vegas, totaled 66 points and had his best +/- in six seasons. However, Vegas had a problem. The Knights needed to sign some of the new faces of their franchise to lucrative contracts, and after it was all said and done, Perron became a free agent once again. Seeing an opportunity in front of him, Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong wasted no time in getting Perron back – signing him to a 4-year, $16 million-dollar contract on July 1st.

It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows right away for “Frenchie”: St. Louis was in total freefall early in the ’18-19 season and was dead last in the league by the new year. Despite getting his 4th career hat trick early in the season, Perron was even labeled a healthy scratch for a game in December.

Of course, everyone knows what happens next.

The Blues went on a complete tear in the second half of their season, winning 11 games in a row under a new head coach and a new goaltender. Meanwhile, the big “DP57”, up until his injury in mid-January, racked up 20 points in 18 games and still rounded out the season with 46 points in (poetically) 57 games.

Perron would head to the Stanley Cup Final for the second straight year, this time winning it, with 7 goals and 16 points in the playoffs, including the game-winner in game 5 of the Finals. After 12 years of bouncing around the league, watching friends and former teammates take home the big prize, the Stanley Cup was finally his – with his original team – to complete the storybook ending.

Perron’s Impact

It’s safe to say Perron made his biggest impact for the Blues in 2019. The 31-year-old NHL vet has cut his teeth for 13 seasons among 5 different teams and is approaching a decade of playing as a St. Louis Blue. So how, after 3 different stints with the Blues, did it finally manage to work?

The first aspect was the team around Perron. David played with Ryan O’Reilly, one of the top two-way centers in the league, for the majority of the season as the second-line winger. He also found immediate chemistry with up-and-coming rookie Sammy Blais, who rose as the physical edge to their line.

Like Pat Maroon playing alongside Connor McDavid, it wasn’t difficult for the points to accumulate next to ROR (28-49-77, career highs for O’Reilly). His goals- and assists-per-game averages all went up next to his linemates, sometimes exceeding the numbers he hit in Vegas. Despite his reduced ice time, he netted 16 even-strength goals, almost more than any season prior (Reached 19 while in Edmonton).

Another aspect was his veteran experience. Perron’s assists in Vegas smashed any previous record he held (35A in ‘08-09) and proved how much of a heads-up, playmaking skater Perron still is after so many years. We’ve seen that even more so this season, as the second line of O’Reilly, Blais and Perron have combined for 19 points in their first nine games.

Better than the veteran experience, however, is the playoff experience. Coming into the ’18-19 season, David Perron was one of 2 Blues that actually made it to the Stanley Cup Final. The other: his former teammate Oskar Sundqvist, who dressed in two playoff games (not Cup Final games) and “won” the Cup with Pittsburgh in 2016.

While the Blues were riding on patient confidence and nerves of steel all the way to the Cup Final, David Perron was the one player on the roster that knew what it would take to win the hardest trophy in all of sports. Perron has even stated that playing for Vegas was “The best year of my life”, per a Las Vegas Review article by David Schoen.

If Perron had stayed in St. Louis and missed the playoffs in ’18, rather than go all the way to the Final with a brand-new team and brand-new mentality, could his performance in the 2019 playoffs gone differently? Had he not resurrected in Vegas with a career year in points, does Perron not continue the same success in St. Louis and finally hoist the Stanley Cup?

Perron’s Legacy

Whatever hypotheticals and “what-if” scenarios we could spend hours deliberating, nothing changes the fact that David Perron’s return to form is a welcome one for St. Louis. With Perron currently on pace for 63 points in the 2019-20 season, it is no small feat that he has remained a perennial 40-point+ scorer in the National Hockey League.

As he fast approaches his 500th game as a Blue and 500th NHL point, perhaps sending David Perron to Vegas was the best thing that could’ve happened to him.

We love ya, Frenchie.

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