Thanks Shea, Howdy PK!
Ok, so now that we’ve all collected ourselves…. Eh who am I kidding?… We’re going to be talking about this trade the entire off-season, counting down the days (106) until PK Subban debuts in a Preds uniform.
48 hours before the free agency period officially began, it was another snoozefest of a day in the NHL. There wasn’t even the obligatory NHL on NBC tweet about another superstar that Chicago is ‘kicking the tires’ on. Then the League got turned on its ear yesterday with the news that the Preds sent Shea Weber, their captain of six years, to Montreal for the man who the Habs refused to give the ‘C’ to, PK Subban. There are many questions to be answered, so let’s get started.
Who initiated the deal? By all accounts, it appears as though Predators GM David Poile contacted his Montreal counterpart Marc Bergevin. Bergevin stated on Wednesday that Poile called him on day 1 of the NHL draft in Buffalo and mentioned Shea Weber, and that’s where talks began heating up.
What sparked the interest? It’s no secret that there have been issues with Subban and the management in Montreal. They wanted him to take a bridge deal after his entry-level contract was up, and he did, signing for 2 years, $5.75M in 2012. Following that, they took him to arbitration before eventually signing him to an 8-yr, $72M deal. Then there was the issue over not trusting him to be the next Canadiens captain. For whatever reason, management never seemed to be completely sold on him.
Weber went through many of the same issues in Nashville. He went through a bridge contract after his entry-level deal expired, signing a 3-yr, $13.5M deal. Following that, Nashville took him to arbitration, eventually signing a one-year, $7.5M contract, which still left him as a restricted free agent the following offseason. Unable to come to terms, the Philadelphia Flyers swooped in and gave him an offer sheet. The 14 year, $110M deal was so front-loaded, Philadelphia expected the small-market Nashville franchise to fold and take the four 1st round draft picks as compensation instead of matching. However, 6 days later, the Preds did as David Poile stated, and matched the offer, calling it the most important transaction in franchise history. Keep in mind, just two weeks prior to the offer sheet, Nashville had lost Ryan Suter to Minnesota via free agency. If the Preds had lost both of their franchise d-men in a 3-week period, the team would’ve alienated the fan base having just come off two consecutive seasons of advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in history. They really had no choice but to match the deal, regardless of the financial burden it brought.
Weber just completed his 4th year of that contract and already seems to be taking a downward turn talent-wise. Yes he scored 20 goals (14 on the power play) but you don’t need to be an analytical genius to see his game is on the decline. Within two years, this contract will be an albatross, having that large cap hit for a player who clearly won’t be worth it.
Let me be clear, this is not about bashing Weber or slighting him in any way. If the Predators took care of business years ago and negotiated their own deal with him, this would’ve never been an issue. But make no mistake about it, the contract is the only reason Shea Weber is being shipped to Montreal.
Where do we go from here? On the ice, I believe Subban is a better player than Weber even now. He’s nearly 4 years younger and is a superior skater to Weber. I know we’re all enamored with Shea’s slap shot, but Subban has a cannon of his own so you won’t miss much in that aspect. What Nashville will miss is that physical presence that Weber possesses. At 6’4, 236 lbs, he is 4 inches taller and about 25 lbs heavier than Subban, and as we’ve all seen from time to time, angry Shea Weber is the best Shea Weber.
That leads us to where Subban fits in the lineup. Personally I think that he will slot right in with Roman Josi on the top pairing, thus keeping Ekholm/Ellis together as the second pair. There’s been some debate about that because he’s another puck-moving defenseman. News flash…. EVERY regular d-man on the roster not named Jackman is more than capable of carrying the puck up the ice.
It may seem like a small role, but Subban will also help out in OT. I’ve argued that Weber was a major liability on the ice in the 3-on-3 OT. Players admitted they didn’t practice the scenario at all, but one can’t argue with the horrendous results. So many points were lost due to their ineptitude in OT, so chalk up another plus for Subban.
Although most of what Weber does on the ice is replaced, the vacant captain position is still up for grabs. Most fans seem to want Mike Fisher get the ‘C’ on his chest for the upcoming season. It’s a logical choice in that he was one of the regular alternates, but he’s also on the last year of a contract and not likely to return at age 36. So do you place him as captain for one year, then go through the process again next summer? James Neal was the other usual alternate captain so he’s another option. Josi would don the ‘A’ when either of them were not dressed and is arguably Nashville’s best player. The last option is Subban himself, particularly after being snubbed of the captaincy in Montreal. Although history has shown players being traded and being given the ‘C’ upon arrival, I think this is very unlikely to happen in this case.
When do they play against their former teams? Montreal visits Nashville Tuesday, January 3rd 2017, the first game of the new calendar year. One of the best things to come of this trade is that the Preds only have to face his 108mph slap shot twice a year. Subban and his new teammates will visit Montreal on Thursday March 2.
Why pull the trigger now? If you need more reasons than what I’ve already mentioned above, how about this… Because I said it was going to happen since last summer. Go ahead… check the tapes… check the tweets, do whatever you want. Yes I’m going to toot my own horn a bit. I said back then that if this team didn’t make it to the conference finals, major change was going to take place, specifically the trading of Weber. The Preds are way beyond the stage as a franchise where making the playoffs is good enough. We’re past the point of moral victories in the playoffs and thinking it’s ok to lose because that team made it to the Stanley Cup Final or even won the whole thing. Losing sucks. Period. Stop.
You can’t waste the opportunity the team has at being a legitimate contender. As it stands now, there are just 4 players over the age of 30 on the roster; Fisher, Ribeiro, Jackman and Rinne, with Rinne being the only one signed past 2017. On the flip side, there will be no less than 17 players age 28 or less. We’re talking about guys that are in their prime or approaching it, so the window of opportunity is there over the next handful of years.
Let’s be honest, David Poile isn’t exactly on the hot seat so he didn’t HAVE to make this move. I hear fans all the time complain that he never goes for it in the draft because he plays it safe, or he never signs any top players when free agency begins. To the naysayers, I say take a look at the top players we have. Forsberg, Fisher, Johansen, Jarnkrok, Neal, Subban… all of them acquired via trade. The only assets he traded that will play any significant role in 2017 are Seth Jones, Patric Hornqvist, and of course Weber. Who do you think won those trades?
We’ve said before that Laviolette’s hiring was the beginning of a new era for the Predators organization. The move made on June 29,2016 could very well be the catalyst for this era including a Stanley Cup championship celebration on Broadway in the very near future.