David Perron is really the only key player the Pittsburgh Penguins have hitting unrestricted free agency this summer. That said, they’re already pressed right up against the cap, and while Perron is the only notable UFA (unless you consider Ben Lovejoy and Matt Cullen to be key players) they’re going to need to sign Olli Maatta to a new contract, as his entry-level deal is set to come to an end and they’re going to need to do something about the tire fire they have on their blue line. The Pens currently have nine forwards, four defencemen, and one goalie signed from their current active roster heading into next season at a combined cap hit of roughly $60 million. They’ll likely be able to fill some holes internally, but that doesn’t give them very much room to flesh out and improve their roster.
So what type on contract can we expect for David Perron on the open market?
Perron currently has a cap hit of $3.812 million and will more than likely be due for a raise on that figure come July 1. This summer will mark the first time that he’s hit the open market, as his last deal signed with St. Louis back in 2012 ate up his remaining restricted free agent years, so he’ll be looking for something relatively long-term to give him some stability as he passes beyond the prime ages of his playing career.
In terms of production, Perron has been a solid, but inconsistent top-six forward for the better part of his career. He broke into the league with the Blues as a 19-year old in 2007-08, but really made his mark the following season when he posted 15 goals and 25 assists over 81 games. In 2010-11, Perron suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the majority of the season, but he came back strong the following year, managing 21 goals and 21 assists in 57 games. The best year of his career came in 2013-14 after he was shipped to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi and a draft pick, as he managed to lead a horrific Oilers squad with 28 goals. The following year, he was sent to Pittsburgh, where he’s had a difficult time hitting his stride.
In 67 games so far with the Pens, Perron has just 16 goals and 16 assists. This is obviously rally surprising, because it was expected that he would be able to find some chemistry playing with two of the best centres in the world in Sidney Crosby and Evgeny Malkin. To be fair, though, nobody on the Penguins is really producing like they should be right now. Outside of Malkin, who has 25 points through 24 games this season, the Pens have been massively disappointing. Crosby is on pace to have the worst statistical season of his career, Phil Kessel only has 17 points, Patric Hornqvist only has eight, and Chris Kunitz only has five.
As a team, the Pens boast a below-average 49.0 Corsi For percentage at even strength, which sandwiches them right in between Edmonton and Toronto — company they obviously don’t want to be in. They also have the fifth worst even strength team shooting percentage in the league, which could help explain why only one player on the team is producing at the level they should be. The biggest reason for this, as many have suggested, likely has to do with the fact the Pens really only have one defenceman who’s capable of producing offence. Outside of Kris Letang, the defencemen on the Penguins all have negative possession numbers and a below-average number of shot attempts at even strength.
What does this have to do with Perron? Well, it helps explain why he’s putting up some of the worst numbers of his career, and it also suggests that the Pens are probably unlikely to re-sign him, as they have a much bigger position of need on defence.
Like I said, Perron is certainly going to be getting an upgrade on his $3.812 million annual salary this summer, unless he decides he really likes what’s going on it Pittsburgh and decides to give them a discount. I really doubt that’s going to happen, though, judging by the way things are going with that team right now. According to Hockey Reference, Perron’s Adjusted Point Shares over his career suggests that he’s most similar to Ryan Callahan, Blake Wheeler, T.J. Oshie, and Kris Versteeg. He’s averaged 0.59 points per game over his career, and he’s proved that he can be a 20 goal and 50 point scorer when put in the right situation. With that considered, I would guess that somebody signs Perron to a four or five year deal with a $4-$4.5 million cap hit this summer, but it won’t be the Penguins.
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