Hitchcock says Perron for Paajarvi trade could help both teams

News-DemocratJuly 19, 2013 

Still excited by a 12-day tour of Europe that included historical sites from World War II and other eras, St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was ready to talk some hockey.

Hitchcock met with the media Friday and touched on a variety of topics, including the recent trade of Blues winger David Perron, line combinations and the signing of free-agent center Derek Roy.

While many hockey insiders saw the Perron deal for Edmonton winger Magnus Paajarvi as clearing room under the salary cap, Hitchcock viewed it as a trade that could help both teams.

Hitchcock talked about the system for player moves that he and Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong have employed since they worked together in Dallas.

"My preference is don't tell me who you're getting rid of ... I don't want to dwell on that," said Hitchcock, who basically immerses himself in scouting and gaining information on prospective players. "I take real pride in going and looking at every aspect of his game and contacting people who know him very well personally.

"I do my homework on that and I use a lot of people to get the right information. Then I bring that information back to Doug on where I see him fitting on our team."

That was the case on Paajarvi, who at 22 is three years younger than Perron and also larger at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds.

In 163 NHL games with the Oilers, the former 10th overall pick in 2009 has 26 goals and 58 points in 163 games.

"I have a lot of people personally that knew Paajarvi, both in Sweden and in Edmonton," Hitchcock said. "I watched all of his games against teams similar to us. I knew how well he played in the last 20 games. ... I watched that very closely.

"But I wanted to see how he played against San Jose, LA and ourselves. Those were the games I focused on."

In an interview with the Belleville News-Democrat at the time of his trade, Perron was asked about his relationship with Hitchcock and difficult comeback from a concussion.

"I do think it's a better fit in Edmonton, but it doesn't mean it was a bad fit here in St. Louis," Perron said. "I think everyone had pretty much bought into the system and I think Hitch is a really good coach. It's two different styles of hockey and that's the way it is.

"I still enjoyed my time in St. Louis and I can only thank all my teammates and fans and everyone for believing in me for six years."

Hitchcock said Friday he and Perron weren't working against each other.

"I really liked him personally," Hitchcock said. "Him and I had a good relationship because I really respected the fact that he was coming back from a significant injury. I really felt like he was a guy that when you had him on the ice, you were one step away from scoring a goal all the time.

"He was a dangerous player offensively, so the other team was always on edge against him."

Hitchcock admitted there were times when he had higher expectations for Perron.

"I don't look at top skilled players as anything else than there's some risk with those players -- and as long as those players are working hard and competing, then the risk is worth it," Hitchcock said. "The times that I was disappointed in him was when he stopped playing reckless and he started to play careful.

"When he played careful or tried to play and put the skill in ahead of the work, he knew that the coaching staff wasn't going to be happy with him."

Both players will be watched closely in the future because of the significance of the move.

"We think (Paajarvi) is an improving player," Hitchcock said. "We think he's a player that's going to get better and with our team and the way we play, we think he's a great fit.

"But there's no denying that David is an offensive player with a lot of thrust. We'll see over time."

Perron clashed at times with former Blues coaches Andy Murray and Davis Payne, dating back to raising Murray's radar by wearing white skates in his first appearance in St. Louis.

Has he matured?

"Where I saw maturity in David was looking at himself," Hitchcock said. "We had a lot of good talks, especially at the end of the year. I think he started to look at himself and what he needed to get better at rather than his surroundings.

"We're getting a good player who's going up, hopefully. Edmonton's getting a good player who's going to be a threat to score all the time."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, nsanders@bnd.com or on Twitter @NormSanders

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