The Nashville Predators were eliminated by the Dallas Stars in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week. With the Predators failing to make it to the second round, trade rumours around top defenseman P.K. Subban have begun to swirl.
The Predators won the Presidents’ Trophy last season and made it to the second round. They didn’t make any major changes in the offseason and it led to them being upset in the first round in 2019. This had led to speculation that GM David Poile might make a major move this time around.
Subban is an incredible talent, but he comes at a steep price. The former Montreal Canadien is the highest paid player on the Predators with a $9 million cap hit. He posted just 31 points in 63 games this season — the lowest output of his career. His 22:40 average ice time was fourth-most on the team.
The Predators are known for their “Big Four” on defense. They have a stellar blueline that includes Roman Josi, Ryan Elias, Mattias Ekholm and Subban. Josi will be a UFA at the end of 2019-20 and will be looking to get paid. Ellis will start a new contract next season paying him $6.25 million against the cap. With the upcoming 2021 Seattle Expansion Draft, the Predators may not be able to protect Subban and may want to deal him before losing him for nothing.
Subban understands the business side of it and provided a great quote when asked about the trade speculation surrounding him.
— John Glennon (@glennonsports) April 24, 2019
Jason Botchford of The Athletic was on TSN 1040 recently and presented a potential scenario in which the Canucks could acquire the 29-year-old from Nashville. The hypothetical deal was complicated and involved the Canucks taking on the contract of James Neal in a trade with the Flames and then using pieces acquired in that trade to get Subban from Nashville.
More @botchford: To me, if I'm Calgary and they have to pay Tkachuk, I'm thinking it's a first and prospect. And a good one, like a Dillon Dube. And then, you call Nashville and you go, we've got this guy and Calgary's first. We'll give you that, and a sweetener for PK Subban
— TSN Radio Vancouver (@TSN1040) April 23, 2019
Why it makes sense
The Canucks acquiring Subban would improve the team significantly. There’s no denying that. Subban could quarterback a lethal power play with Quinn Hughes and change the dynamic on the blueline. He’s an elite puck-moving blueliner who would make any team better.
There are certainly some question marks on the blueline right now for the Canucks. Alex Edler is a pending RFA and there are concerns about Finnish defensive prospect Olli Juolevi. Subban is a right-shot defenseman and the Canucks are lacking on that side.
Making a blockbuster trade to acquire Subban this summer would make sense because you could argue it would help the Canucks take that next step and get back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Why it doesn’t make sense
Aside from saying you traded for Subban and having a player of that caliber on the roster, it doesn’t make much sense for the Canucks to try and acquire him. We all know what Subban brings to the table at this point. He’s an outstanding defenseman who can control player from the back end. He also has a larger than life personality and enjoys the spotlight. How would that gel with the young core the Canucks are developing? Subban is great off the ice and does fantastic work for charity, but is this really the time you would want to acquire him?
Subban will turn 30 in May. He’s coming off his worst offensive season to date. He had a fantastic 2017-18 campaign with Nashville, but you could argue his best seasons came four-five years ago in Montreal when he won a Norris Trophy and hit the 60-point barrier. He’s been slowed down by injuries and has missed 50 games over the last four years. How much longer will he be able to produce at this level?
Trading for Subban would do significant damage to the Canucks’ future. It’s pretty much a foregone conclusion Jim Benning won’t trade Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat or Quinn Hughes. With those players off the table, it would need to be a significant haul to bring in Subban. The Predators would almost certainly be looking for a top offensive prospect such as Tyler Madden or Kole Lind in addition to some variation of Vancouver’s 10th overall pick this year or a first and/or second-rounder in 2020. You wouldn’t be able to trade a middle-six player like Jake Virtanen and a pick and expect to acquire a marquee player like Subban. It just isn’t realistic.
Even if the right deal was on the table for the Canucks, they would need to shed some salary cap before taking on that contract. Subban is getting paid $9 million for the next three years. Boeser is going to be getting paid this summer and the Canucks need to make sure they have enough money to pay their young talent. Even if they make some moves this summer, they will likely be looking to free up some cap space before doing so.
If the Canucks truly wanted to make a big splash this summer and improve their blueline on the right side, why not just try to sign Erik Karlsson? Karlsson is a year younger than Subban and will be a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season. If the Canucks feel it’s necessary to add a big name to their defense in the offseason, it would make more sense to sign a free agent and lose nothing instead of trading for Subban and losing assets.
There’s no denying the Canucks could use an elite right-handed defenseman for the future. Given the likely cost of acquiring Subban, it wouldn’t make much sense for Vancouver to give up a big chunk of their future to try and acquire him.
It’s very possible Subban does get traded this season. Nashville has a great defensive core and GM Poile has a history of making major moves. He traded Shea Weber for Subban back in 2016 and also dealt Seth Jones to Columbus for Ryan Johansen.
A Subban blockbuster trade could go down this summer, but it’s hard to see the Canucks being a part of it.