Should the Tampa Bay Lightning bring back Corey Perry for 2023-24?

Nov 28, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) reacts after scoring a goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Corey Perry (10) reacts after scoring a goal during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

While most of the focus in the offseason for the Tampa Bay Lightning will be on whether they retain Ross Colton and Alex Killorn, seven guys from the 2022-23 squad are in need of a new contract if they want to stick around in Tampa.

Colton and Killorn might not come back due to salary cap constraints. But for Corey Perry the question isn’t whether Tampa can afford him but rather if the Lightning want him on the roster regardless of his cap hit.

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Band Perry

When evaluating Perry’s 2022-23 campaign, the first stat that stands out as a huge red flag is his plus/minus rating. While the stat doesn’t always tell the full story, Perry’s -28 is so far removed from everyone else that it must be a clear sign he’s a defensive liability.

Well, except there is a massive catch to his plus/minus. Perry was on the ice for 16 empty net goals against Tampa this season and five short-handed goals against. Given his role in extra-attacker situations, hanging out down low to do the dirty work around the keeper, it’s hard to peg these 21 goals that counted against him as proof of a problem.

But, even if we remove those 21 goals, that still leaves Perry as a -7 for the season. For most of the season, he was paired up with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare with a rotating cast of Pat Maroon, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Tanner Jeannot as the third forward on his line.

Bellemare finished the season -9 individually. Perry and Bellemare played on the same five v five line in 72 regular season games this year, and combined, the duo surrendered 18 goals while both were on the ice compared to just 13 goals scored while both were on the ice.

There are also a number of other five v five stats that dipped for Perry in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22:

  • Total points went from 26 to 12
  • Total ice time reduced from 932 minutes to 762 minutes
  • Individual scoring chances dipped from 145 to 98
  • Hits given went from 75 to 43

The problem for Perry isn’t even the salary cap hit. At a $1,000,000 hit, the Tampa Bay Lightning, at best, would save $250,000 on the cap if they replaced him with an entry-level contract from Syracuse.

And he said during his exit interview, “I’ve still got more in me. I still want to play.”

Given his age and declining stats, the real question is whether he warrants a roster spot.

At an initial glance, the answer would be no.


Bad luck Perry

What if I told you that Corey Perry wasn’t actually a problem this past season? When Perry and Bellemare were on the ice together this season, their line generated 85 high-danger chances, with just 71 high-danger chances against them. Their expected goal share during five v five play was 51%.

The problem was a combination of bad luck and a certain line paring that just wasn’t a good mix:

  • Perry and Bellemare’s line had a PDO this season of 0.982. Anything under 1.000 is either the result of a poor shooting percentage or a poor save percentage.
  • When Perry and Bellemare were paired with Pat Maroon, those three only combined for one five v five goal all season while surrendering seven. Their expected goal share was also 43.12%.
  • When Perry and Bellemare were paired with any other forward besides Maroon, their line scored 12 goals five v five while surrendering 11, with an expected goal share of 54.43%.

We can do a deep dive on Pat Maroon, but he is still under contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning and is not going to get released. The problem when pairing Perry, Maroon, and Bellemare all together is it creates a grinder line that has zero speed to it.

Corey Perry is still a perfectly fine role player if given the correct role. When Ross Colton and Perry were paired up, they had a five v five expected goal share of 62.53%.

Compare that to the 51.32% expected goal share Colton had when paired with Maroon.

So even if Colton doesn’t get retained due to his potential salary demands, there is a good chance that Alex Barre-Boulet is going to start the season with the Lightning to fill his role after posting 84 points in 69 games with Syracuse this season.

And in either case, the veteran presence of Perry, while not as flashy or exciting as it once was, still has merit and value to it.

A line of Perry, Boulet, and Tanner Jeanott would give a combination of speed, physicality, and a hint of high-end scoring talent that could actually be a very effective line, even if it isn’t putting pucks in the net.

There is a pathway where Julien BriseBois moves on from Perry in an attempt to get younger and faster.

That’s fair.

But Corey Perry played better than what his baseline stats showed and at least deserves consideration until a better alternative is available.

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