Needing to move a core forward to free up salary cap space for more signings, the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday shipped winger David Perron to the Edmonton Oilers for left winger Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round pick in 2014.
"We certainly didn't make this trade just for salary cap purposes," Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong said. "If we were going to make a move, we wanted to get a player that fits into our organization today and fits where we are moving forward. We think that he brings an element to our team that we don't have, and that's that size on the wing and that speed."
Perron, 25, has three years remaining on his contract with a salary cap hit of $3.81 million per season. The trade gave the Blues extra salary cap space and they now have just under $13 million to try to sign restricted free agents Alex Pietrangelo, Chris Stewart and goalie Jake Allen.
Paajarvi is also a restricted free agent coming off a contract worth $1.525 million. Stewart was among 21 NHL players filing for salary arbitration Wednesday.
"He is just coming into his own and this will open up more ice time for Jaden (Schwartz) and Vladimir (Tarasenko)," Armstrong said. "I would like to thank David for his time in St. Louis and wish him well in Edmonton."
The 22-year-old Paajarvi (pronounced Pay-R-V) is a native of Sweden and was the 10th overall pick in 2009 by the Oilers. A 6-foot-3, 208-pound left winger known for his size, speed and skating, he had nine goals and 16 points in 42 games last season and 15 goals and 34 points as a rookie.
"It's a contending team and there's still a lot of young guys on the forward side, so my first reaction is excitement for sure," Paajarvi said when asked about the trade. "I want to make goals. I do want to create offense and I want to drive the net, that's where my game is at --and of course the defensive part as well."
Paajarvi has 26 goals and 58 points in 163 NHL games. He also played with Blues center Patrik Berglund for their native Sweden at the recent World Championships.
"We saw them play over at the worlds together and they had a very dynamic team," Armstrong said. "They played in the gold medal game, but this trade wasn't based on just his ability to play with one player. One of the areas we wanted to try to improve was our speed and bringing him in is going to help that. It does free up some cap space for future deals that we have to accomplish."
Perron was the 26th overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft. In six seasons with the Blues he had 84 goals and 114 points in 340 games, including a career-high 50 points in 81 games (15 goals, 35 assists) in 2008-09.
Last season Perron played in all 48 games, scoring 10 goals and 25 points. However, he had just one goal and five points in his final 22 regular-season games.
"David's a dynamic offensive player and we think that Magnus is just entering the guts of his career now," Armstrong said.
Perron twice hit the 20-goal level with 20 in 2009-10 and 21 in 2011-12 after missing much of the 2010-11 season because of a concussion suffered on a hit from San Jose's Joe Thornton.
Paajarvi discussed the area of his game he feels needs the biggest improvement.
"Getting more efficient offensively, that's for sure," he said. "I have the speed to do all of that and I think I have it in mind to take the next step. It's all in front of me and I just need to grab it and really embrace it. I'm trying to use my speed for basically everything and have a good two-way game, but I still want to create some offense and make some goals."
In Edmonton, one of the criticisms of Paajarvi's game was he spent too much time on the perimeter despite his advantages in size and speed.
"I just think it comes with experience and time," Armstrong said. "We're a league that puts young players in position to fail and not succeed far too often. When you put an 18- or 19-year-old player into a man's league and ask him to be a physical force, that's a daunting task. We have seen some evolution in his game and our pro scouts and the people that we talk to around the game indicate that he is trending in the right direction."
So how does this trade impact the Blues?
"We have nine forwards that are interchangeable and Ken (Hitchcock) has used them as interchangeable parts," Armstrong said. "Our team is built on balance and we think (Paajarvi) has the ability to come in here and provide an element that we don't have now."