Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern/USA TODAY Sports
In silly season terms, this is as silly as it gets.
Following up on reports from TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger, the sitting general manager of a team in a huge Canadian market admits on the radio that he’s called to inquire about a super-duper star playing in another huge Canadian market. Even if Canucks general manager Jim Benning admitted that a deal was “nowhere close”, this is sort of news that can shake the host city in the lead up to the draft.
And indeed it has. As I write this, every media luminary in hockey is loitering around the Hyatt Regency lobby waiting for Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin to address the press. Benning’s candid admission on TSN 1040 on Thursday has put the Canadiens executive in something of a difficult spot.
Will Bergevin duck the questions and give us some “people call about good players and the only reason they’re calling about P.K. is that his no-trade clause kicks in on July 1” boilerplate? Or will he admit that his club is at least considering the possibility of parting with a perennial Norris Trophy candidate?
Here’s the thing about Subban: there’s pretty much no price to high to pay for him. The Canadiens blue liner is a superstar who plays a premium position and can contribute in every phase of the game. Need a potent right-handed bomb from the point: Subban’s your man. Need a matchup defender who can control play against the best in the world: Subban can do that. He’s also a supremely admirable citizen and an incomparable box office draw.
He’s the sort of player that fans of whichever team employs him can pinch themselves and think “wow it’s crazy that I get to root for P.K. Subban 82 games a year”.
If Subban is actually on the market it’s hard to imagine that the Canucks would have the asset war chest required to outbid teams like the Edmonton Oilers – who have been explicit about their interest in acquiring a stud right-handed shooting blue liner. For Vancouver to even get in the game you’d have to start with the fifth-overall pick, and probably add Chris Tanev, and then add Bo Horvat and even then you’re still not going to be able to compete with a team like Edmonton once players like Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins enter the equation.
And Benning has already admitted that the price on Subban is going to be astronomical.
“Yeah, we’ve been one of the teams that have talked to them,” Benning said, per TSN 1040. It’s a high price, but he’s a true No. 1 defenseman.”
Meanwhile Matt Sekeres adds that negotiations are expected to be ongoing throughout the evening. So buckle up.
Benning often talks about how rare a commodity the true No. 1 defenseman is in this league. By his estimation, there are only about 12 of them leaguewide. Generally speaking, those players are drafted and developed by the organizations lucky enough to employ them. The exceptions to this rule are extraordinarily rare. The Boston Bruins signed Zdeno Chara in unrestricted free agency, the Minnesota Wild did the same with Ryan Suter, and the San Jose Sharks traded for Brent Burns. I’m just listing exceptions to the rule off the top of my head, but that’s about it for the last decade.
All of which is to say that opportunities to acquire a player of Subban’s ilk are rare. And that’s partly why there is no price that’s too high. If you get the chance, you do everything you can to acquire a player of Subban’s calibre and work out the details later.
We’ll see how this plays out in the hours and days to come. Maybe Subban remains in Montreal, or maybe an epic bidding war is about to ensue. We’ll know more about Begevin addresses the media, probably, but it’s certainly beginning to look like this situation is about more than just ‘teams are innocuously calling to ask casually about a great player and it leaks out to the media’, with folks like Travis Yost hearing from his front office sources that the Subban trade talk is “real”.
Whether anything ultimately comes of this or not, the looming spectre of a piece like Subban being in play has certainly enlivened draft week in Buffalo.