Photo Credit: NHL.com

Did the Canucks miss the boat on P.K. Subban?

The New Jersey Devils stole the show at last weekend’s draft in Vancouver. After selecting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick on Friday Night, the Devils swung a deal on Saturday afternoon to acquire former Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban.

Subban getting trade wasn’t much of a surprise. The Predators are loaded with talent on the blueline and they wanted to free up salary cap space in order to sign a game-changing forward in free agency. When it was announced that Subban had been traded, most assumed it was to the Toronto Maple Leafs who had just sacrificed a first-round pick in 2020 in order to dump Patrick Marleau’s $6.5 million cap hit.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Instead, out of left field came the Devils. New Jersey weaponized their abundance of cap room to acquire Subban for a very underwhelming package. All it cost them was two second-round picks, Steven Santini, and Jeremy Davies. As I said, though, this was about Nashville opening up $9 million in cap room to try to sign somebody like Matt Duchene.

Beyond New Jersey and Toronto, Elliotte Freidman reported that the Canucks were one of the other teams who inquired about a deal for Subban. Freidman mentions that the Predators were looking for Adam Gaudette as part of the return for Subban. This has since spiralled into a rumour that adding Gaudette was a dealbreaker for Jim Benning, which may or may not be the case. There’s a chance Benning didn’t want to swallow three more years at $9 million for Subban.

The big deal the Canucks ended up making last weekend was acquiring J.T. Miller from the Tampa Bay Lightning. Miller is a good player but he’s probably overpaid at $5.25 million annually. Despite the fact the Canucks were the team in the position to weaponize their cap room against Tampa Bay, a team in cap hell, Vancouver ended up giving the Lightning a first-round pick in the deal.

How does this pertain to Subban? If you add up Vancouver’s willingness to take on $5.25 million with Miller and the discussion around possibly signing Tyler Myers to a deal north of $7 million in free agency, it’s hard to imagine the $9 million cap hit was the major deterrent in a Subban deal.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Maybe it was the $9 million cap hit. Maybe it was Gaudette. Maybe it was something completely different. Who knows. Regardless of the reasoning, Benning ultimately didn’t pull the trigger on a Subban deal. Did the Canucks miss out here?

Though he’s just one year removed from a season in which he posted 59 points in 82 games and finished third in Norris Trophy voting, there are major question marks surrounding Subban’s future. Subban’s 2018-19 season was derailed due to a back injury, as he put up a career-low 31 points in 63 games before having a very underwhelming showing in the playoffs.

The Predators ultimately sold low on Subban after a poor season. Subban had a no-movement clause set to kick in a few days after the draft which would have made it a lot harder for the Predators to pull the trigger on a deal. I imagine they ultimately decided that they were better off freeing up room to add a forward than they were taking a gamble on Subban and his back injury. New Jersey, on the other hand, is taking a gamble on Subban, buying low in order to possibly go on a run before former MVP Taylor Hall can leave the team in free agency.

That brings us to the Canucks. There’s certainly considerable risk with Subban. If last season was any indication, he isn’t the same dominant player he used to be. But if he does rebound from these injuries, he’s a cost-controlled No. 1 defenceman that can make any team better. Given the upside, this is a risk worth taking.

The Canucks clearly want to take a step forward now and capitalize on Elias Pettersson’s entry-level contract, otherwise, Benning wouldn’t have given up a first-round pick for Miller. If the Canucks do end up signing Myers, it’ll be hard not to look at this Subban situation as a major missed opportunity. Even in his down season last year Subban was a better player than Myers was with the Jets. I would much rather take the gamble on Subban, who was made available for much less in a trade than you’d expect, than overpay for Myers.

Time will tell, but it’s hard not to view this as a missed opportunity for the Canucks.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

  • Dan-gles

    we do not need P.K. Subban on our team at 9 million per. From the many reports of his difficulty being a team player, the optics of his short stay in Nashville, his age, recent injury problems, and inconsistent play I am hoping Benning wore a condom on his feet when he kicked the tires. Don’t want him carrying any of the P.K. funk into the nucks locker room.

  • Goon

    Would I prefer P.K. Subban over J.T. Miller and Tyler Myers? Sure, absolutely. Do I think the Canucks rebuild is as far along as New Jersey, and that adding a player like P.K. Subban is appropriate at this point? No, absolutely not.

    • CamBurke

      We all know Goon is a tw(a)t but he is correct about Benning. This joke of a GM ranks alongside Ottawa and Edmonton as the worst in the league – the standings don’t lie.

      Adding insult to injury, Benning actually believes the rebuild is over, which is why he is adding the likes of JT Miller and a top 4 D (he undoubtedly wants Myers) to the mix. In his warped Paul Bearer mind, Benning believes the team is now going to be a contender – therefore he shoulda swung a deal for Subban.. the only upside is he didn’t and it will cost him his job and the nightmare five year ‘rebuild’ that never was will finally be over. The slurpers can then crawl back under their rocks where they belong. #firebenning #fivewastedyears

      • DeL

        If you believe this misadventure is Benning and Benning alone. That would mean our resident hockey oracle the great Francesco hasn’t got his fingers all over it. Linden was the one who wanted to go full rebuild and Aquilini didn’t want to hear it.

          • DeL

            Yeah but he saw the light that’s why he was talking to other teams about their rebuild. The worst thing that could have happened did when the Canucks had a hundred plus season in this mgmt group’s first year. Lulled into a false sense of everything is just fine. When Linden realized that wasn’t the case Aquilini didn’t want to hear. He wasn’t around for the free agent signings last year perhaps he didn’t like the direction meddling Francisco wanted to take

    • NJ has 2 No.1 picks because they won the lottery twice (pure luck). They have an pending UFA in Hall, and 3 years of Subban. Schneider is broken and Ty Smith is their only good prospect. So explain how they are farther in their rebuild?

      We have the real No.1 pick of 2017 in Pettersson and a proven two way centre in Horvat. Calder trophy nmoinee in Boeser and potential Calder candidate in Hughes. Two elite goaltender prospects in Demko and DiPietro. Solid prospects in Podkolzin, Juolevi, Woo, Hoglander and additional depth with Lockwood, Lind, and co. Plenty of RFA years with guys like Gaudette, Virtanen, and Goldobin. Will have more scoring depth in Baertschi, Pearson, Leivo, and Miller. How does NJ stack up since they are further ahead in their rebuild?

      • Goon

        Being myopically focused on your own team and not being aware of other team’s depth of prospects doesn’t mean other teams don’t have them.

        New Jersey made the playoffs only a season ago, which is more than the Canucks can say. Their centres are Hughes, Hischier, Zajac and Zacha. Zajac’s a veteran who scored 46 points last year, but the oldest of the other three is Zacha who had 25 points in 61 games as a 22-year-old centring the third line. They have two wingers who have scored at a better pace than the Canucks’ best winger in Hall and Palmieri, and they have a defence anchored by Will Butcher, who has 74 points across his first two NHL seasons, Sami Vatanen, Damon Severson who had 39 points as a defenceman last year at 24 years old, and now norris-winner PK Subban. That’s a defensive core that absolutely puts the Canucks to shame.

        Add to that that they have arguably a better goalie prospect than Thatcher Demko in MacKenzie Blackwood (Blackwood put up a .918 in 23 games last year compared to Demko’s .913 in nine games) and yes, absolutely, New Jersey is much closer to competing not just for a playoff spot but for the Stanley Cup than Vancouver is. Barring massive injuries or the Canucks making some major changes this summer, New Jersey is a lock to be the better team next year and in the foreseeable future.

        • Actually, I’m not myopically focused on just the Canucks so here are my counterpoints:

          Hughes and Hischier. No doubt, franchise guys in the future. Having two No.1 overall picks at centre is a GUARANTEED Stanley Cup. For example, look at Edmonton. Oh wait, nevermind…right. Hockey is a team game, you need 20 other players. So let’s move on.

          As for Zajac, if I can quote Jason Botchford: “Who cares! He’s 34!”. His career is almost done. He was a great 3C but nothing more than that. Zacha was a 2015 #6 overall pick who has 76 pts in 201 games. Virtanen was a 2014 #6 overall pick with 59 points in 210 games. Virtanen and Zacha are both under-performers given their draft position and bottom-6, non-core players.

          Hall is elite but he’s also a 27 year old pending UFA. Palmieri is 28 and has 2 years to UFA. Vatanen is 28 and a pending UFA. Zajac is 34 and is 2 years to UFA. Subban is 30 and 3 years from UFA. Do you see the trend? A rebuilding team doesn’t count +28 year olds who will be UFA in 1-3 years as their core. With the no.1 overall picks from 2017 and 2019, sorry, they aren’t part of the Hughes/Hischier rebuild.

          Severson…yes, right age. Great contract with 4 years remaining. Wow, it’s almost like Miller with 4 years remaining! Except Miller is slated for the Top 6 whereas Severson is a bottom 4 defender. His Corsi/Fenwick has nearly always been sub-50% and last year was his worst at 46-47%. Good depth, not a core guy despite his age.

          Blackwood’s NHL experience so far has been very encouraging but his AHL and junior stats don’t compare to Demko’s NCAA and AHL performances. So again, we spar on whether to include Demko’s two bad games. Sorry, I dig deeper and crunch the numbers – I acknowledge Demko’s SV% average from last year but the deeper dive show 2 blowouts and 7 elite performances. Demko makes the first save and has great recovery technique.

          I don’t see New Jersey as the better team at all. They’re like Edmonton but without the hassle of bad contracts. What Shero really needs to do is load up more defensive prospects and complimentary scorers to support Hughes and Hischier. Outside of Ty Smith, no, they don’t have that.

      • Goon

        Jersey has also picked 28 times in the past three drafts including multiple 2nd and 3rd round picks, because they actually acquired draft picks in a rebuild (shocking concept!). They have a bunch of blue-chip prospects not yet in the NHL, including defenceman Ty Smith, centre Jesper Boqvist, centre Michael McLeod, and winger Nathan Bastian. They have better players on the team right now, better high-end young talent, and at least as deep a prospect pool as Vancouver.

        • No doubt, NJ had more picks (28) to Vancouver (23) but what I always contend is that quality matters as much as quantity. So let’s breakdown the picks more.

          NJ and Vancouver had nearly equal numbers of 1st to 3rd round picks. NJ had 3 x 1st round, 2 x 2nd round, and 5 x 3rd round picks. Vancouver had 3 x 1st round, 4 x 2nd round, and 2 x 3rd round picks. That’s 10 to 9.

          I think it’s ironic that when Podkolzin or Hughes falls to Benning, it’s luck. But when NJ wins the draft lottery twice, Shero is never criticized for being lucky but only applauded. If draft pick quality matters, outside of the two No.1 picks, we had more 1st and 2nd round picks that were also higher than NJ.

          When we look at the remaining draft picks, NJ had 18 and Vancouver had 14 but we’re looking at longshots when we’re talking the 4th to 7th round. I already did an analysis of 5-7th round defencemen and 85% of those draft picks were shots in the dark. Only 3 were steals and only one was a clear steal: Warren was a high 3rd who fell to the 5th round. The other two were 7th round picks that could have gone in the 5th or 6th round, no significant using draft pick value charts.

          Vancouver can easily match New Jersey for blue chip prospects. Ty Smith? Hughes is a lock as a roster player. Podkolzin, Hoglander and Keppen were lauded as steals for Vancouver. Woo and DiPietro were the core player around major junior trades last year. Madden was re-ranked as a 1st round pick by the Hockey News (or Hockey Writers). McDonough is going the same route as Madden and Hobey Baker winner Adam Gaudette. Jury is out on Lind, Gadjovich, Rathbone and Utunen but there’s still potential there. Oh, and Pettersson won the Calder, if you didn’t know.

  • Killer Marmot

    The Subban contract was upside down. Subban’s a good fit for a team that will be vying for the Stanley Cup in 2020 or 2021, like the Predators. He’s not a good fit for a rebuilding team, like New Jersey or Vancouver.

    Perhaps it’s a sign that the Predator now consider themselves rebuilding, despite their recent success. They want to collect some draft picks and clear some cap space for up and comers. If so, it was a good trade for them.

  • Defenceman Factory

    The articles that would appear on this site if Subban was acquired almost write themselves.

    The boat the Canucks missed was a fast ferry onto the rocks

  • PQW is a Nation Network Contributor

    Come on. As f*@ked as the Miller trade is regarding a first, the Nation Network writers and their phoney lap dogs like PQW would STILL be punching themselves in the scrotum had Jim made ANY deal for PK. Nice try Cam

  • GDD

    From a cap point of view – there is more flexibility with Subban’s contract. His “only three years left” contract is a much better fit for the Canucks. Yes it is for $9m, but it is only for three years! Canucks will have CAP issues with new contracts for EP and Hughes – but this CAP issue will start in year three. With Subban, if they wanted to or needed to, they could easily move PK in year 3. But no. They will sign Myers at be 5 or 6 years at $7m a year. Crazy. Not only will he not be as good as PK, his contract will give the Canucks CAPS problems from year 3 through to year 6. Canuck’s have cap room now for two years – they should have used it on PK. Just imagine a PP with PK, Quinn, Brock and EP. Yet another lost opportunity because of Benning

    • Defenceman Factory

      Comparing a PK acquisition as favorable to a Myers signing is reasonable but concluding PK would have been a good acquisition doesn’t seem so.

      Doesn’t Subban have a NMC meaning he has to be protected at expansion? Won’t his salary bury the Canucks in the 3rd year when Pettersson needs to be re-signed and the Canucks are still paying for Luongo, Beagle and Eriksson? Doesn’t PK have back issues and isn’t he coming off a horrible season?

      Neither PK or Myers is highly preferable to either.

  • bobdaley44

    Sure missed the boat on that one. A 9 mill per year cancer who never met a camera he didn’t like not to mention his defensive deficiencies and on the downside of his career. Funny how the Montreal fans were up in arms after that trade. Wonder who they’d rather have now? Weber brings instant respect and credibility which PK never did and never will. So glad the Nucks didn’t get him.

  • speering major

    First, I don’t know the caliber of those 2 prospects. If they’re just throw-ins like Carcone it’s fine.

    I don’t like the deal for Vancouver but I love it compared to signing Myers for 6 or 7 years. Subban makes the team significantly better on the right side. He’s also better than Myers. year 3 of his contract would see the core 4 entering their prime and guys like Podkolzin making an impact on an entry level deal. His contract would expire at the same time as Eriksson’s. That would put the team in a position to repeat the process with another 27 year old. With Myers you would be stuck with an inferior player on the decline for another 3 seasons. Clearly Subban at that price is the better option

    That said, the better solution would be to go after someone like Miller and help LVK with their cap problems. If that’s not possible, look for depth D on short term deals to get through this season. Use the free cap space next season to address the issue through free agency or trade. If you want a guy like Barrie, you can pay for him in $ and term next summer vs a package including a 1st round pick now. Patience young grasshopper. The D this year will be better than last. Gudbranson, MDZ, and Pouliot are out. The team is way better from that fact alone. Hughes is in. This is a nice upgrade. Edler and Tanev missed over 50 games combined. If this is reduced, there’s another big upgrade. If JB can sign another RHD that improves any spot in the top 6, the D get’s even better again. All in all, this isn’t a spot to panic in

  • Kanuckhotep

    It seems abundantly clear PK was a cap dump by Nashville who received no roster players for him. $9M per for 3 more seasons for a declining 30 y.o. D man should tell you something and Benning was correct in not going after him. Subban May have become the proverbial elephant in the room when the Preds looked at his contract and what he presently brings and dumped a guy who was not in their plans. It’s not that PK can’t play but at those prices on a lower echelon team? Nah.

  • wojohowitz

    I think Benning blew a huge opportunity to improve his team. I previously suggested he could get two prospects and two draft choices for Quinn Hughes instead the Devils made the same deal for Subban.

    Ty Smith and Jeremy Davies plus this years 2nd and next years 1st would have been a great deal for both sides and btw Davies `walks the line` as well as anybody. Benning just doesn`t have the stones.

  • canuckfan

    Suban no thanks and the Miller trade was a good trade and yes we will make the playoffs next year. Miller has a good contract, is fairly big and will be a good addition. If Benning signs both Myers and Nyquist we should be good to go.
    Man are the radio talk show hosts full of crap can hardly wait until July 1st passes so don’t keep hearing the same recycled crap over and over ‘i heard this” or “heard from a good source” likely the guy at the 7-11.