Thursday, June 22, 2017

Perron has mixed emotions about leaving St. Louis again

Forward selected by Vegas in expansion draft disappointed not 
to stay with Blues, excited about new challenge with Golden Knights

ST. LOUIS -- David Perron understands the business, but in the end, leaving St. Louis is a mixed bag of emotions after being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft on Wednesday.

There's disappointment for Perron leaving the place where his career began for the second time, but there's certainly excitement of joining a new franchise that on paper looks to be further along than when the NHL expanded last in 2000 with the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron's second stint with the Blues came to an end after the
forward was chosen by Vegas in the expansion draft Wednesday.

Perron, 29, was the player the Golden Knights targeted on the Blues' roster when general manager Doug Armstrong submitted the Blues' list of available players and those that were protected.

Essentially, it came down to Ryan Reaves or Perron that would get the protection rights. The Blues chose Reaves, exposed Perron and when Perron go that call from Armstrong earlier in the week, the inevitable set in.

"It's a business and that's the way it went," Perron said Thursday morning. "I'm still a little bit disappointed about the way everything happened, but I understand the situation. Yes, I was hoping to be (in St. Louis) for two (years) and hopefully more. The way it went last year, I was proud of the effort I was putting out there last night. That's how I feel about it. That's a big positive. If that's it for me in St. Louis, I'm a little more happy the way it went this time than maybe the last time I was there. It went well, too, the last time, but the feeling was a little bit different leaving and this time, it's just like in a way a tough bounce with the business. 

"I found out a couple nights ago. 'Army' called me. I was able to sleep on it and kind of feel the disappointment and then when I got up in the morning, I can already feel like I was turning the page. Looking at the city, the restaurants, I've been there a couple times, I'm starting to get excited about it so I'm glad I got to find out about it at least the day before."

Perron had 18 goals and 28 assists in the regular-season in 2016-17 after signing a two-year, $7.5 million free agent contract to return to the franchise that made him a first-round pick in 2007 (26th pick). He felt it was a good enough season to warrant being one of the protected players, but with Vladimir Sobotka returning and signing a three-year contract and Reaves' importance to the team, someone had to be left exposed.

"It was disappointing; I can't lie about that," Perron said. "I felt like I had a strong season, strong enough to be on the list. Things happen. 'Sobe' comes back to sign for a three-year deal. He's a very valuable player on the team and then obviously the energy 'Reavo' brings to the fourth line is necessary on every team. A lot of young guys coming up, too, and pushing. I'm proud of the way the Blues are built. I'm always going to be proud that I played in St. Louis but still it's disappointing. I felt like I could have been on there, but in the end, it's a business. I know that 'Army' didn't feel comfortable, just like the other GM's, to put the list out there. They still get attached to the players to an extent. They don't want to lose anybody. These guys work so hard to build a team. It takes a while to build a team the way you want it. With the expansion draft, things like this happen. It's tough for everybody."

A source close to the situation said that Armstrong and Vegas GM George McPhee had dialogue about perhaps making a trade to keep Perron off Vegas' wish list and steered in the direction of someone else, perhaps Jori Lehtera, but the price was too high for Armstrong's liking and thus, Perron was left in the vulnerable spot of being taken.

"We knew we were going to lose a player that we didn't want to lose," Armstrong said on the team website. "That's the nature of the expansion draft and the price for having an additional team in the NHL. We'd like to thank David for his time with the Blues and wish him the best of luck with the Golden Knights."

And this Armstrong had to make the call to inform Perron he would be a player exposed.

"I got the call midweek (last week) that I wasn't going to get protected," Perron said. "He had a good feeling that I wasn't going to be selected or that they were going to do something if that was the case. It didn't work out and I know he tried. I have so much respect for 'Army.' There's no hard feelings. I understand the business. ... St. Louis is always going to be my favorite place to play in the league because I started there. I played there seven years out of 10 so far. Everyone in St. Louis are great people. I had so much fun playing at Scottrade Center and I always will."

While Perron had a solid regular-season, his playoff performance -- at least on paper -- was not what he wanted nor what the organization expected. Perron had one assist in 11 Stanley Cup playoff games and it was more evident in the second round when the Blues were searching for offense in a six-game series loss to the Nashville Predators.

"I talked with both 'Yeozy' (Mike Yeo) and 'Army,'" Perron said. "The fact that 'Sobe' came back, it was a little bit tougher mentally on me. I wanted to win more than anything, but I was going home every night and some nights, I wasn't satisfied with my play. Some nights we were winning and I could move on a little bit easier from that first round. Still in the end, you go from kind of everything I was doing in the regular season, PK and all that stuff and then 'Sobe' comes back, it changes a lot. I don't play PK anymore, I go from 17, 18 minutes to 13-14 and on top of that, I feel like my game slipped a little bit. I really appreciate that 'Yeozy' kept giving me a chance to go out and try and make a difference. I still feel that if we kept playing, I would have found a way eventually. I really felt the trust in Yeozy for that too because we had a lot of players that wanted to play, that could play. The way it was going, I wasn't satisfied with myself. I know that they wanted more from me, too. That's just the way it is, but mentally, it was a tough one that way."

Perron, who recently became a father for the second time, now moves to a franchise that added some notable players, including James Neal of the Predators, Marc-Andre Fleury of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Cody Eakin of the Dallas Stars, Erik Haula of the Minnesota Wild, among others.

"It's a great feeling," Perron said. "I was talking with Marc-Andre Fleury. We're good buddies, we played together. I had some guys call me on teams I played with before and they said, 'You're going to play with this guy, he's a great guy. You're going to love him,' things like that. I really do feel like we have a strong chance to be competitive to make the playoffs next year. That's all you want really. The pressure won't be there for us to make playoffs in a way just because it's the nature of that, but I know that in the room, there's never one team that goes into the season not wanting to make the playoffs. You see what Nashville did this year. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
David Perron had 18 goals and 28 assists for the Blues last season after
returning to sign a two-year, $7.5 million free agent contract in 2016.

"Playoffs are so tight, you never know. It'll be crucial early on to try and build chemistry and some kind of identity throughout the year that the coaching staff will obviously try their best to do that. I think we're going to have one of the better coaches in Gerard Gallant. I've only heard great things about him and that's one of the things the next morning when I got up, I remember it was him that coaches the team and it really made me more excited because of everything I've heard about him. I'm also going to play with six or seven other French-Canadian players. That's another cool thing that I didn't really experience in my whole career."

Perron, who has 159 goals and 219 assists in 10 seasons, won't close the door on a possible return to St. Louis one day, whether it be as a player or in another capacity.

"I'm always open to St. Louis," he said. "I know the team is also. I'm very open to anything really. Quite frankly, everyone knows how much I love the game; I want to stay involved even when I'm done. Maybe it will be when I'm playing, maybe it will be when I'm done in 10 years, I'm not sure; I don't know anything. It's not something I've talked with anybody or after, but St. Louis is close to my heart as far as the hockey team and other things. I'll always be connected somehow with them."

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