When news broke late last night that the Anaheim Ducks acquired forward David Perron and defenseman Adam Clendening from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for Carl Hagelin, much of the hockey world was asleep.
Really, who could blame them?
Yet while much of our initial analysis focused on the financial side of things, which no doubt is a big deal in the grand scheme of things considering the numerous pending restricted free agents this offseason, the Ducks have been in dire need of more scoring touch for much of the season.
Perron has cracked the 20 goal plateau three times in his career, while twice putting up more than 50 points. One year into a four-year deal worth $15.25 mil. he signed with St. Louis after a 42-points in 57 games injury-shortened season, he was dealt to the Edmonton Oilers for Magnus Paajarvi and a second round pick. After a career year in 2013-14 with the Oilers, he regressed and was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Rob Klinkhammer and a first round draft pick. There Perron went through stretches of productivity, but this season opened the year without a point in his first eight games, and is currently on his third drought of four-on-more games without a point.
Dive Into The Deep Numbers
The first thing that jumps out about this season for Perron is a career-low 4.2 shooting percentage. His career average is 11.7, and in his three 20-plus goal seasons shot at 12.0, 18.4, and 12.7 rates, none of which were career-highs. It's not a simple matter of luck either, as all but one of his seasons he's been a positive shot attempts percentage player at even strength, and even more importantly his shot attempt generation relative to his teammates have been positive six of nine years. He is a player that has a positive effect on possession at five-on-five, and has demonstrated relatively consistent goal scoring ability at the NHL level thanks to above-average shooting.
So why the drop off in production since his career year of 28 goals and 29 assists for the Oilers in 2013-14?
That season Perron averaged 2:49 of power play time and scored eight power play goals while dishing 5 extra-man assists, but also drew the most even strength ice time of his career averaging 15:49. For his career he's generally been a 75-25 or greater split in terms of his scoring at even strength vs with the man advantage, so that additional ice time did wonders. His three most common five-on-five forwards were Sam Gagner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall, so being partnered with some of the most talented offensive players on the squad certainly helped.
Next year in Edmonton the forwards he saw his most ES time with were Mark Arcobello, Teddy Purcell, and Leon Draisaitl. In each case he was better at generating goals/60 minutes as well as posting a better shot attempt percentage when away from those players. Come the trade to Pittsburgh, he skated most with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, and scored the majority of his goals when paired with those two. However, while Perron was significantly better (2.70 vs 2.02 G/60) when playing with Crosby, Crosby was not only better at scoring rate-wise (2.87 vs 2.70) but also better defensively (Pens scored 63.5% of the goals when Crosby was on ice without Perron, vs 50.0 with him) as well.
That may help explain why this season Pittsburgh has played Perron most with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, but again both of those players have had both better SAT% as well as GF% numbers when away from him. Both his even strength as well as power play time dropping from an average of 14:40 and 2:38 last season to 13:41 and 1:43 this year also speak to the decline in his production with the Penguins. There's also the matter of the lingering talking point of how difficult some players find it to succeed in Pittsburgh playing with the level of skill around them on the top lines.
In Perron's two 20-plus goal seasons with St. Louis, he skated most at even strength with Patrik Berglund and David Backes, as well as Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes. While both of those seasons are five and seven years removed, it does give an idea of the kind of players that Perron can thrive with. In each case it was a physical presence, as well as a more skill/two-way type player.
What Does It Mean For The Ducks?
The left winger will be 28 in May, and is playing for a new contract. As has been posited elsewhere, both Perron and Hagelin never seemed to find full comfort playing in the conference opposite where they've spent the majority of their respective careers. The Ducks defensive style, with a physical edge will likely ring familiar with Perron harkening back to his time in St. Louis, and a season in Edmonton gave him additional exposure to what playing more regularly against them is like.
For Anaheim it's switching out a top-nine forward with a more speed and defensively inclined game, for another top-nine forward with more offensive upside but still plenty of grit. The underlying numbers show that while he, as his trademark dangles, are indeed more offensively inclined, he's not a complete liability defensively. He could immediately be tried on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg, looking to capture that physical plus skill/two-way chemistry that worked with the Blues. The Ducks need scoring, and Perron gives them a player with a proven track record of doing so, with plenty of incentive to do it.
While the immediate response was to note the $3.812 mil. in cap space that will come off the books this summer, making it easier to try and retain the services of Rickard Rakell, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and others, this is also a move that has the potential to add an offensive boost to a unit that sorely needs it and has begun to show signs of life.
The Ducks surely are not done making moves, as evidenced by quotes from management saying as much. But for right now, acquiring David Perron is one with future flexibility, but plenty of track record to suggest that it can help in the now as well.