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BenFred: David Perron's piece of Blues puzzle could be hard to replicate

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St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators tied 1-1 after first period

Blues forward David Perron skates away after tying the game 1-1 with a goal in first-period action against the Senators on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at Enterprise Center. 

Do you think the Colorado Avalanche fear the Blues more today than they did two months ago?

I don’t.

We’ll never know what could have happened in last season’s second round if the now defending Stanley Cup champions would not have taken out goalie Jordan Binnington with a Nazem Kadri cheap shot.

Next postseason, will we be wondering what could have happened if the Blues had navigated salary cap limitations in a way that allowed them to take a better shot at keeping veteran forward David Perron?

Colorado is probably thrilled Perron is now a Red Wing due to the kind of contract that seemed like one that would have made a lot of sense for the Blues.

It was Perron who finally retaliated against Nazem Kadri after his crash into Binnington knocked the locked-in goalie out of the playoffs with a knee injury.

He poured in nine goals and dished four assists while firing a sniper-like 21.4 shooting percentage though this past postseason.

No. 57 totaled 57 points (27 goals, 30 assists) during the regular season, impacting games in all sorts of ways.

He helped the Blues win a ring in 2019, returned to the organization every single time a transaction took him away to play for another and made it crystal clear to anyone who would listen that he hoped this special relationship would continue.

If I told you before free agency that Perron was going to land a five-year deal, no one would have figured that the 34-year-old signed with the Blues. Too much. Too old. Time to turn the page.

But if I told you before free agency that Perron was going to sign a two-year deal worth less than $1 million per year more than the average annual value of the contract he just finished outperforming with the Blues, how many of you would have bet that contract was going to be with the Blues? Yeah, me too.

This is hard to swallow.

I know, I know. It’s a hard-cap league. Tough decisions have to be made. Can’t keep everybody. The Blues have lots of depth at forward. Defense was a need. And so on.

Blues boss Doug Armstrong has earned the benefit of the doubt, and while no one who has paid attention to this team can possibly like the Perron departure, slapping a grade on any offseason doesn’t make sense until the final picture takes shape. Armstrong can be totally unpredictable, and I mean that as a compliment.

Locking up Robert Thomas to a franchise-record deal could wind up looking wise after that eight-year extension ends. No complaints here. Armstrong has bet big on young talent in the past, and guys like Alex Pietrangelo and Vladimir Tarasenko made it look smart for a long stretch.

And who knows, maybe Armstrong is working behind the scenes to eventually pull off Blues’ fans biggest dream — welcoming Matthew Tkachuk home via trade or free agency in the relatively near future.

But at this very moment, it’s a bit hard to make sense of the Blues winding up in a spot where they believed they could not justify beating Detroit’s two-year, $4.75 million deal for Perron.

The Blues were either unable or unwilling to create more cap space leading up to free agency.

They remain tethered to a regrettable Marco Scandella contract.

They had no problem finding four years and $16 million for 31-year-old defenseman Nick Leddy after an encouraging but relatively small sample size.

Tarasenko and his $7.5 million owed during his final season remain on the books, and no one seems to know if he is very interested in playing for the Blues, or not.

Put simply, Perron was not as big of a priority as it once seemed.

I suppose this can be compared to Armstrong wisely stiff-arming emotions when he decided against extending former captain David Backes. But let’s not forget Backes left for a five-year deal worth $30 million, back in 2016. We’re talking about a much smaller payday here for Perron.

Armstrong has described this offseason as a jigsaw puzzle. The Blues decided they are good to move on without Perron’s piece. The risk? Perron is the kind of piece a team can find itself missing more and more once he’s gone.

Blues coach Craig Berube could count on Perron to be a fierce competitor. He had a knack for overshadowing his concerns — age and injury history being the biggest — with production when the spotlight reached its brightest. He was a power-play ace and a perfect match with captain Ryan O’Reilly, who now has no new extension and no Perron. Perron looked to shoot, loved to score and stoked the competitive fires of those around him. The forwards who remain have big skates to fill.

Armstrong’s shrewd moves in the recent past have earned him the benefit of the doubt, but that mountain in Colorado feels taller today than it did when the Blues last clashed with the Avalanche in May.

Ben Frederickson @Ben_Fred on Twitter bfrederickson@post-dispatch.com

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