The St. Louis Blues earned the second-best record in the West this season with a staunch defensive style that took away ice and minimized risk. Given that, it might be a bit unexpected for general manager Doug Armstrong to be making a gamble, but he is confident this one will pay off -- the Blues signed restricted free agent David Perron to a four-year deal Thursday that both sides admitted carries an element of risk for each of them. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but TSN's Darren Dreger reported the contract to be worth $15.25 million for an annual cap hit of $3.8125 million.
That element of risk for the team involves concerns that Perron may have recurrences of concussion symptoms that held him out of the first 25 games of the 2011-12 season, while for Perron, there is a chance he's leaving money on the table in a more lucrative offer down the road should he improve on a very strong 21 goals and 21 assists in 57 games this past season. Despite playing in fewer games than most of his teammates, Perron finished fifth on the team in points and assists, and was second on the team in goals.
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That the Blues are willing to commit four years to Perron is both a sign of their confidence in his continued development and in his sustained health.
"There was a little bit of concern and I think what we talked about at the end of the year was potentially going short term," Armstrong said in a conference call with the media Thursday. "But I wanted to talk to David's representatives, find out what was important for them. I wanted them to hear my concerns, and I think both sides had to give a little bit on what our expectation was in three or four years and what his value was in three or four years if he stayed healthy, so I think there was a little bit of risk on both sides, but ultimately what we did talk about is that our goal is for him to stay healthy and produce the way that we need him to produce to be a successful team.
"I thought it was worth the risk and obviously David did also."
The new deal will keep Perron, 24, with the club until at least the 2015-16 season.
Perron acknowledged the inherent risks for both sides when he spoke with the media on a conference call Thursday, but there was a noticeable sense of excitement from Perron, who is looking forward not just to starting the 2012-13 season under his new contract, but doing so with the proper level of fitness and conditioning he missed last season as a result of sitting out training camp and the start of the season due to injury.
"It seemed like when the intensity got a little higher in the playoffs, it kind of had me dragging just a little bit behind," Perron said. "My head was there, my hands were there, everything was there, but my conditioning just seemed like it was just a little bit behind the guys. As a player during the playoffs you're not thinking too much, you're working as hard as you can and you're just hoping it's just a few bad days, but it seemed like mostly in the second round it didn't go as well as I wanted as a player and obviously as a team. I'm the kind of player that's trying to make a difference every shift out there, getting that big goal for the team and I wasn't able to do that."
"I'm way ahead of where I was at any point during the season last year. I've been training like a maniac lately and feeling really good." -- David Perron on his conditioning after admitting he was dragging a bit late in the playoffs
Both Perron and Armstrong pointed to an intense offseason workout regimen that is expected to prepare Perron both physically and mentally for the rigors of what they expect to be his first full NHL season since 2009-10. For a team that expects to contend for the Stanley Cup next season, a healthy, prepared Perron would be a huge boon if he continues to improve offensively.
"I'm way ahead of where I was at any point during the season last year," Perron said. "When you take a look two, three, four weeks after the season, I realized, we'll never know for sure, but I realized it could be part of it, just the conditioning wasn't quite there. I've been training like a maniac lately and feeling really good."
After being drafted 26th overall in 2007, Perron went straight from the QMJHL's Lewiston Maineiacs to the NHL. In his first season with the Blues, with whom he has spent his entire five-season career, Perron tallied 13 goals and 14 assists in 62 games. In 292 NHL games, Perron has 74 goals and 99 assists and is a plus-45.
Perron's 42 points in 2011-12 were eight below his career high of 50 set in his second season in 2008-09, but his .74 points-per-game average was the best of his NHL career.