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Free Agent Profile: Corey Perry

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Recently bought out by the Ducks, Perry is one of the more intriguing UFA forwards on the market.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks
Just two friends hanging out...
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Please, before you start throwing tomatoes at me and setting things on fire, just put down the pitchforks and hear me out.

Recently bought out by the Anaheim Ducks, 34-year-old Corey Perry is one of the more... interesting UFA targets this year. Between 2014-18, the former Hart Trophy winner averaged 0.725 points per game across four seasons, or about 59 points per a full 82-game season. Last year, however, was a career-low for the veteran forward, as he scored a measly 10 points in just 31 games played.

It’s not hard to find the reason for this apparent cliff-drop — Perry underwent knee surgery in late September 2018. Instead of taking the full six-month recovery, Perry was back at the beginning of February, only four months later. It was apparent that Perry wasn’t fully healthy, and playing on a poor Ducks team likely did not help his production.

So assuming Perry will be truly healthy this next season, what can teams expect from the aging forward? Based on the last two years of data, Perry could help add some offensive firepower to whichever team signs him:

I find the tidbit about Perry’s skill on the power play to be the most interesting. Coaches like to give playing time to dedicated penalty killers all the time (see: Lovejoy, Ben), but rarely do the same for power play specialists (see: Spezza, Jason). Still, for teams who had a struggling power play in 2018-19, Perry is worth looking at.

But before I use that obvious transition, let’s talk about the elephant in the room — cost. The primary reason the Ducks bought out Perry isn’t necessarily because he’s a bad player, but rather that he wasn’t worth his $8.625 million salary cap hit. His injury history and recent play will obviously hurt his value, but Perry can still make some decent money on the market come July 1. He could probably even find a team or two willing to give him two to three years.

Alternatively, since Perry will still be getting paid by Anaheim for the next four years, he could use this opportunity to take a low-cost prove-it deal:

Perry, 34, is in the unique position to bet on himself. With the salary cap not rising as sharply as expected, he can opt to sign a one-year performance bonus-laden contract with a small salary cap hit that will be beneficial for teams – and mutually beneficial if he performs.

Those type of deals are typically reserved for players aged 35 and over in the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. But Perry can sign one because he missed more than 100 days of the league’s 185-day season last year rehabbing a tough knee injury.

So not only could Perry bring some scoring talent to his new team, he could do so at a relatively cheap cap hit. For a playoff team that’s looking to improve their offense, signing Perry to a one-year deal could be a risk worth taking.

And that’s where we’ll transition to the Dallas Stars.

For all the reasons discussed above, Perry is actually an intriguing option for Dallas — as much as it sickens me to say it. If he bounces back from his injury, he could be a decent second-line winger for the Stars and help improve the team’s lackluster power play. And if you’re a fan of “tough, old school” hockey, Perry would be able to fill the role of the team’s “agitator,” which they’ve lacked since Antoine Roussel left in free agency last summer.

Plus, Perry wouldn’t be a total stranger in the Stars’ locker room. He’s played with Jamie Benn on Team Canada before, winning an Olympic gold medal together in 2014, and the two have clearly remained best friends ever since. That chemistry could help Perry transition to his first new team since being drafted by the Ducks in 2003.

Of course, we’re also trying to stay positive here, focusing on the best-case scenario. The worst case — and honestly the most likely — is that Perry will never fully recover from his knee injury, and will be (at best) a shadow of his former self. He’d be another bottom-six forward aged 30-plus on the roster, one who takes a roster spot away from younger players like Denis Gurianov.

And all jokes aside, there’s really no telling how Perry would fit into the locker room. Maybe Andrew Cogliano could put in some good words for him, but there’s been some bad blood built between Dallas and Anaheim over the years. I’m sure a few players would be less than thrilled to have Perry join.

So should the Stars try to sign Corey Perry this offseason? It’s at least worth considering, assuming he really is looking for a “prove-it” deal and not a multi-year contract. It certainly wouldn’t be the most popular move, but it’s a relatively low-risk one that could pay off decently for Dallas.

Okay, feel free to resume the throwing of tomatoes and waving of pitchforks.