David Perron made it clear in a postgame tirade back in November that he was tired of playing for the Oilers. He finally got his get-out-of-purgatory card on Friday when Edmonton traded the veteran winger to the Penguins for a first-round draft pick and aptly-named utility forward Rob Klinkhammer.
Perron, as they say in the business, is an interesting guy. Blessed with decent size (6-feet, 200 pounds), quick feet and some of the best puck skills in the league, he excels at creating chances off the rush.
The problem is that he has never quite lived up to expectations. He’s a player who will find his way onto the highlight reel several times a year, but who doesn’t finish with the consistency he should given his spectacular array of tools.
Part of that can be attributed to his situation, especially during the past two seasons when he’s been weighed down with a series of spare linemates on team drowning under the weight of its own incompetence.
That won’t be a problem with the Penguins. Perron will likely line up alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin on a team that’s challenging for the Eastern Conference lead. Wherever he's slotted, Perron will get his first real chance to play with an elite center and it’s easy to imagine that he could thrive in five-on-five situations. He’s also likely to be given quality minutes on a power play that has dominated for much of the season, but which has fallen on hard times of late, scoring just once in its last 24 chances.
Even at the cost of a first-rounder, this has the look of a smart deal for a Pittsburgh team that’s in win-now mode.
It’s tough to make the same claim for the Oilers. The subtraction of Perron and addition of Klinkhammer will mean nothing to Edmonton’s season beyond another loss or two in what will seem like a never-ending string of defeats. You have to wonder, though, why the Oilers settled for a first-rounder when the Penguins are neck deep in the very thing that Edmonton needs most: young, mobile defensive prospects.
Hey, this pick may be used to select that type of player, or it could be flipped closer to the deadline. In time, it may end up providing terrific value. But settling for a lottery ticket that might pay off three to five years down the road instead of for a young player who is just a year or two away from making a difference is yet another failure by Oilers management, who just don’t seem to recognize the value of their own assets. And it does nothing to expedite a rebuild that’s now at five years and counting—with no end in sight.
But hey, the Oilers are that much closer to a shot at the top pick in this year’s draft. And that’s worth something, right?