St Louis Blues Gamble on Paajarvi’s Potential over Perron’s Production?

Considered by most to be a player still in development, Magnus Paajarvi was the 10th overall pick at the 2009 NHL entry draft.  (Courtesy of cbc.ca)

Considered by most to be a player still in development, Magnus Paajarvi was the 10th overall pick at the 2009 NHL entry draft.
(Courtesy of cbc.ca)

So, the MacTavish reign in Edmonton continues to provide plenty of substance for us hockey writers; brief moments of calm, days drifting by with hazy uncertainty (the Hemsky situation unresolved and Gagner filing for arbitration) and then the sudden, news rearing like a ferocious predator from the gloom; another trade.

As reported by Chris earlier, the Oilers have acquired winger David Perron from the St Louis Blues in exchange for young winger Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round draft pick. This post will examine who got the better of the deal, an analysis made considerably more difficult by factoring in potential talent and the importance of ‘now’ to both franchises.

Fans in Edmonton have been craving a physical forward, a beastly specimen, who can add bite to go along with the talent on the top-six, perhaps even protecting some of their more valuable stars from opposing enforcers; that is not David Perron. At six foot and 200 pounds, the 25-year old may still end up being the biggest player on their offence, but when defining him, ‘proven NHL winger’ is the phrase that most quickly springs to mind.

A brief history on the man they call…’David Perron’, he doesn’t have a nickname of any kind?

Enjoying a curious start to his NHL career, Perron was actually passed over in his first year of eligibility, before being selected 26th overall in the first round of the 2007 entry draft. Then, continuing a tale with more twists than a datsyukian deke, the Quebec native stepped immediately into the NHL fold the following season, as a fresh-faced 19-year old. Basically, none of that makes sense so we’ll move on.

Having played 340 NHL games with the Blues since, scoring 84 goals, recording 198 points and possessing a +45 differential during that time, Perron brings much-needed edge to the top-end of the youthful Oiler team. Capable of competing on either flank but likely slotting in on the left, Perron has produced two 20-goal seasons during his time in St Louis but looked a little out of sorts during last year’s shortened campaign, scoring only ten times in 48 regular season games.

Why aren’t fans of the Oil beaming with joy? They are usually so thrilled about things…..

Well for one, a huge talking point around Perron, who has three years left on a four-year contract with a cap hit of just over $3.8 million, has been an injury which sends shivers down the spines of players, general managers and fans alike; concussion. After a hit from the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Thornton in 2010 led to the forward missing 13 months and nearly 100 games, doubts of a repeat have plagued his every slightly off-balance move. Some would argue that having played 120 consecutive games since his return, both regular season and playoff, he has probably dealt with the worst, but concussions are just such a delicate matter that this unfortunately remains a key factor when weighing up this trade.

The second reason, well it’s just that so many fans in Edmonton really liked Magnus Paajarvi.

A high first-round pick in the 2009 draft, with a likeable personality and good ethic away from the ice, the 22-year old winger has played 163 games for the Oilers over the past three years, scoring 26 times and posting 58 points, along with a -21 rating. During 42 games last season, he had 9 goals and 7 assists, this followed poor numbers in 38 games with Oklahoma City, where he had just 4 goals and a -8 points differential. Putting numbers to the side, when considering Paajarvi, the questions on everyone’s lips are what sort of player can he develop into and how good will he be in the future? The Oilers will hope the latter doesn’t haunt them for the rest of their lives.

So…who wins?

The short answer is Edmonton. They acquire a player with top-six experience, who can make incisive plays, shoots the puck well and has a terrific set of hands (if a little too showy at times). Not only that, but David Perron also has penalty-killing prowess and the stats suggest that he can compete effectively when on the ice against superior players, regularly producing positive shot-results versus better-than-average opponents.

The long answer may very well be St Louis. After recently tying up key pieces in Patrik Berglund and Kevin Shattenkirk, along with forward Chris Stewart and defensive leader Alex Pietrangelo still waiting in the wings to finalise their deals, the Blues desperately needed to make a move to free-up cap space. Along with gaining a younger player in Paajarvi, who although currently a restricted free agent will no doubt be promptly signed at a significantly cheaper hit, they also received a second-round pick in the 2014 draft in the trade, which could become pretty useful in the long term.

The crux of whether this deal was successful for their franchise solely depends on where Magnus Paajarvi’s development takes him. At 6ft 3, he possesses great size for a winger which is allied to blistering speed. He is also talented on the defensive side, with an astute awareness at spotting danger and clever tracking abilities in his defensive zone. Projected to be a exceptional third-liner and compared to Radek Dvorak by some, the intangible of this analysis is that no-one can really tell how much a player will make of his potential, how much of his heart he will throw into every training session, how many hours of extra practice he will spend seeking to improve and whether lady luck will help him on his way.

Although one day in the NHL distance, the Edmonton Oilers may regret this trade, in the feverish tension of the here and now, most sad to say goodbye to a player they loved to call their own, that day is not today.

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