If you ask Blues fans to name one of the team’s most consistently successful players over the last four seasons, chances are very good they’re going to name David Perron.
If you ask them what UFA they don’t want to lose to the market, chances are even better that their response is David Perron.
When the news of Perron wanting to test the open market dropped last night, there were very few voices who were happy about the news.
Re: Perron, unless the Blues make a move before Wednesday and free up cap space, it would seem likely that Perron would be signing elsewhere.— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) July 11, 2022
To be clear, that's "if" the Blues want to clear space for Perron. There's no indication that they want to do that. #stlblues
Perron finished last season eighth on the Blues in points with 57, tied with Jordan Kyrou for third overall in goals with 27, and 11th on the team with 30 assists. If you’re wondering why a team would want to let a near-30 goal scorer walk, it’s not necessarily a matter of anything than being trapped by the needs of the salary cap.
A quick glance over at CapFriendly’s page for the Blues shows you just how far up against the cap the team is. Right now they have $9,012,000 to work with with just 18 roster spots locked up. This means that any further planning will have to take RFA discussions into consideration. The Blues extended QOs to six players yesterday and three of them - Niko Mikkola, Scott Perunovich, and (to a lesser degree) Klim Kostin will be with the team next year.
David Perron’s current four-year contract saw him get paid a very reasonable $4 million per, which is a veritable steal when you consider the production that Perron contributed over that time. His playoff output this year in 12 games of 9 goals and 4 assists was key, especially since the Blues got limited production from their lineup across two series.
Missing that production next year will be tough for the Blues even with a lineup that showed explosive offense. Potentially losing Perron to free agency and (if rumors are to be believed) Vladimir Tarasenko to a trade would be a loss of a combined 61 goals, 78 assists, and 139 points. While losing both could allow the team to sign a big name free agent, chances are even better that pragmatic general manager Doug Armstrong would spread that combined $11.5 million among a couple mid-tier forwards or a slight defensive upgrade.
The Blues won’t be throwing money at a Johnny Gaudreau contract on day one. One of the more reasonable right wings that Armstrong could’ve looked into, Charlie Rust, just re-signed with the Penguins for six years at $5.1 million per. Ondrej Palat is finishing a five year deal with the Lightning at an AAV of $5.3 million, which could be doable depending on if Armstrong drops more salary. Even more attractive, if the organization has patience, could be Ilya Kikheyev of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s finished a two year deal at an AAV of $1.645 million per. His numbers last year (21 G, 11 A in 53 GP) could more than catch Armstrong’s eye.
Basically, if you read between the lines, your conclusion here should be to temper your expectations.
It isn’t a sure-fire thing that Perron tests the open market, and the Blues may still be able to shuffle some pieces around to make a deal work. It’s looking more and more, however, like the Blue who always comes back will be signing a contract with another team for the first time in his career. Perron’s a casualty to the cap and to the Blues’ rising talent. Next year both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou will be in for RFA deals to lock them in, and captain Ryan O’Reilly - along with Tarasenko, if he stays - will need to be locked in after finishing their deals with the team.
Weirder things and minor miracles have happened during free agency, but for right now, it looks like the Blues will be losing one of their best and most consistent forwards to the open market.