By Jeff Ponder
When David Perron was traded to Edmonton in exchange for Magnus Paajarvi and a 2014 second-round draft pick in July 2013, the reviews were mixed.
Paajarvi is a lost prospect. Perron has an upside that has gone untapped. How can the Blues possibly win this deal?
Needless to say, the bad seemed to outweigh the good. Perron, despite coming off a 2012-13 campaign that saw just 10 goals in 48 games, looked like the best piece in the deal. After all, if Paajarvi couldn't thrive with the supposed potent Oilers offense, how will he find his form on a Blues club that finished the season 17th in goals for per game (2.58) and plays a defensive style of hockey?
After Blues coach Ken Hitchcock delivered some confusing comments about the Swede during training camp, Paajarvi found himself in the press box to open the season. He was slated as the Blues' 13th forward, resting behind such forwards as Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy. He didn't suit up for his first game of 2013-14 until Oct. 17 against the Chicago Blackhawks in which he saw 8:17 of ice time in the Blues' 3-2 shootout victory.
How things have changed in three short months.
Playing in his 29th game of the season on Jan. 20 in the Blues' 4-1 win against the Red Wings in Detroit, Paajarvi notched the first goal of the contest and added 12:31 of ice time, skating mostly with Roy and Chris Stewart.
"Paajarvi was excellent," Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the next morning. "He showed great speed, he was on top of people, put a lot of pressure on people. He's really gaining confidence and if the coach was a little smarter and played him a little more, we'd be better off."
Paajarvi, 22, averaged 12:35 of ice time in the next two road games (New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers) but registered no points.
With Alexander Steen unexpectedly able to play on Saturday against the New York Islanders, Hitchcock made the quick decision to take Paajarvi back out of the lineup. It was not the easiest decision the coach has had to make in his two-plus years behind the bench.
"[Paajarvi] didn't deserve to come out the last game," he said after the Blues' 3-2 shootout win. "But somebody had to and it was my decision to make the change."
But the fourth-year man found himself back in the lineup Tuesday night when the Blues hosted the Devils. He contributed an assist on Maxim Lapierre's empty-net goal and received 9 minutes of playing time in the 3-0 victory.
Don't let his totals fool you (four goals and seven points in 32 games). Paajarvi has provided exactly what the Blues needed: depth in the lineup. Perron's move was partially made to make room for Steen and Jaden Schwartz on the top lines. Paajarvi's versatility and ability to play in high-pressure situations are an added bonus to the lineup.
[See related: Introducing The New Alexander Steen]
Perron has become the Oilers' scoring threat (22 goals in 51 games), but Paajarvi has helped the Blues become a much more volatile opponent.
That is an aspect of the trade that cannot be debated.
Jeff Ponder will be contributing to KSDK Sports throughout the 2013 NHL season. Jeff is the St. Louis Blues lead writer at TheHockeyWriters.com and is host of theBash Brothers Podcast as well as the creator of the Hockey Podcast Directory.