He says he gave it a lot of thought, before deciding to bolt the 'Bolts, who had given him his first chance at an NHL job, and join the Atlanta Thrashers.
"I was torn at first. I felt bad about leaving Tampa Bay and my friend, Martin (St-Louis). But the decision to leave was made easier for me when I found out that coach John Tortorella intended to relegate me to the fourth line for the coming season. I didn't feel my real worth was appreciated," Perrin told Courrier Laval in a telephone interview.
In his first full season in the NHL, the Chomedey native racked up 13 goals and 23 assists in 82 games last season, showing great versatility with his role on the first penalty kill unit and on the second power play quintet.
Having spent most of last season on a line with Brad Richards, he was looking forward to a similar role this year, a perception which evidently was not shared by Lightning management. "I think the Lightning philosophy is to imitate the Anaheim Ducks and add more size to the line-up. It didn't look like I figured in their plans," he specified. "I expected to get an offer from Tampa Bay that would reflect what I had accomplished with the team, but it never came. I was disappointed. I'm not a fourth-line player," added the former member of the Midget AAA Laval-Laurentides-Lanaudière Regents.
Consequently, Perrin opted for free-agency in the hope that another team would make him a better offer. There was no shortage of interest in acquiring him. As of the first day free agents could be pursued, July 1, offers flooded in from Atlanta, the Islanders, Detroit and Phoenix.
Why Atlanta? "It's a team I know rather well. I know Bob Hartley and I understand his work ethic. My style fits in well with the Thrashers," he pointed out.
At this time last year, Perrin signed a two-way contract with the Lightning (NHL-AHL), and had to fight for a place on the Tampa Bay fourth line. The rest is history, as he spent the entire season in Tampa Bay, forcing coach John Tortorella to use him in all sorts of ways.
This year he came into the Thrashers training camp intent on centering the third line, with a two-year contract in his pocket. But it won't be an easy task, what with Bobby Holik, Todd White, Jim Slater and Bryan Little all vying to play centre.
"I'm looking to have the best season of my career. I want to show coach Hartley that I deserve a spot on the first three lines," he admitted, just hours before taking to the ice for the Lightning's third pre-season match. "The fantasy leaguers have good reason to put me on their teams, because I'm going to score points. I'm going to raise my play several notches," he added, laughing.
Perrin wasted little time in making friends on the Thrashers roster. He enjoyed a lightning start, scoring two second-period goals in Atlanta's 3-1 win over the Blues in St. Louis in mid-September, earning the game's second star, logging the most ice time of any Thrasher forward, playing on a line with another Laval native, Pascal Dupuis. "I played well. I felt good. I was happy to score two goals against the Blues who were icing their first-string team in the home game. About a week later, Perrin played another good game, getting an assist on Marian Hossa's goal in the Thrashers 3-2 loss to St. Louis.
Prior to last year, Eric Perrin had enjoyed some late season success with Tampa Bay in 2003-2004, playing in 12 playoff games during the Lightning's conquest of the Stanley Cup, although he had only dressed for four regular-season games. Now he's looking forward to a second full season in the NHL, so why not dream of a second Stanley Cup? Photo:Perrin