Habs trade Subban to Preds for Weber in blockbuster deal

Subban

The Montreal Canadiens have traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Shea Weber.

It’s not every day that two teams swap franchise defensemen.

Both players are top-ten defensemen in the NHL, and some would even consider both of them to be top-five. Subban won the Norris Trophy as defenseman of the year in 2013, and Weber is a three-time Norris Trophy finalist.

This is a move that will be examined and scrutinized for years to come. Not only will the players be compared moving forward, but the two general managers will be asked to defend this move down the line.
 

The Players

Subban, 27, is one of the most dynamic defensemen in the league. An excellent skater, Subban moves the puck well and creates open ice for himself. He scored six goals and 61 points in 68 regular-season games this season, and he has 63 goals and 278 points in 434 career regular-season games, all with Montreal. He also has 11 goals and 38 points in 55 career playoff games.

Weber, 30, is a bruising two-way defenseman with a rocket of a shot. He scored 15 goals and 45 points in 78 regular-season games this season and has 166 goals and 443 points in 763 career regular-season games, all with Nashville. He also has 13 goals and 28 points in 59 career postseason contests.

Montreal and Nashville committed long-term, high-paying contracts to Subban and Weber, respectively. When those contracts were signed, it was expected that those players would spend the majority of their careers with that team. That is no longer the case.

Subban has six years remaining on his eight-year, $72 million deal that comes with a $9 million cap hit. Weber, on the other hand, has 10 years remaining on his contract, which carries a $7.8 million cap hit. Montreal will receive slight cap relief with the $1.2 million difference between the two contracts, but considering the duration and complexity of Weber’s contract, it’s unlikely that that was a driving force behind the trade.

Additionally, according to TSN Insider Bob McKenzie, the no-trade clause included in Subban’s deal was set to kick in July 1. If Montreal was considering moving him, the window to do so was closing ahead of Friday’s deadline. Now that Subban has been moved, however, Nashville will decide whether or not the no-trade clause is part of the deal moving forward.


 

Fan Reaction

It’s no secret that Subban’s flashy, in-your-face style hasn’t always meshed well with Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien.

But no matter how talented Shea Weber is, this trade will define the career of Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin. So far, many are strongly questioning the move.


 

Nashville fans, however, are very excited about the move, albeit disappointed to see Weber leave.


 

Examining the Trade

Though both players are top-tier defensemen, Subban is a stronger possession player and is much more active in the play. In fact, aside from scoring goals, Subban is a stronger player than Weber in most categories.

Subban

via habseyesontheprize.com

Weber is almost four years older than Subban and is nowhere near as creative on the ice. He also has a complicated contract that will not expire until he is in his 40’s. On the other hand, Weber is one of the best all-around defensemen in the game and is a highly-respected leader. He is a stable force on the back end, and his cannon from the point will find twine more often than Subban’s. But taking everything into account, most Habs fans are shocked and appalled by the fact that the Canadiens have decided to give up on a player of Subban’s caliber. It is especially difficult to process when that player is so popular. Subban’s electric play, entertaining style and infectious personality have made him a fan favorite. His commitment to the Montreal community, including pledging $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital, has made him a truly beloved figure in Montreal.

But Bergevin stands behind the move.

“We completed today an important transaction, which I am convinced will make the Canadiens a better team,” Bergevin said Wednesday after the trade. “It was also one of the most difficult decisions I had to make as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens. In Shea Weber we get a top-rated NHL defenseman with tremendous leadership and a player who will improve our defensive group as well as our power play for many years to come. Shea Weber led all NHL defensemen last season with 14 power-play goals. He is a complete rearguard with impressive size and a powerful shot. P.K. Subban is a special and very talented player. He provided the Canadiens organization with strong performances on the ice and generous commitment in the community. I wish him the best of luck with the Predators.”

Predators general manager David Poile, on the other hand, is facing little criticism. Though it’s tough to lose Weber, the chance to add Subban to the lineup is a move not many can criticize, especially since Subban is just entering his prime.

Poile is very excited about the acquisition of Subban, who will fit in perfectly with head coach Peter Laviolette’s high-powered system.

“P.K. Subban is an elite offensive defenseman with tremendous skill and contagious energy that makes the Nashville Predators a better team now and into the future,” Poile said. “Superstar defensemen of his caliber are a rare commodity, and we are thrilled to add him to the organization.”

Though Bergevin recently admitted he had been listening to offers for Subban, he insisted he was not “shopping” Subban. However, Subban was not shocked by today’s news.

“With a lot of the chatter that kind of happened over the little while, I’m a firm believer that, usually, where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Subban said on a conference call. “Obviously, it’s a little bit surreal, but it happened.”

But Subban recognizes that Nashville is poised for success and hopes to be a part of the team’s growth.

“This is a great hockey club that’s got a lot of potential and a great future ahead of it,” Subban said. “I was traded for their captain so I’d like to think that the expectations are for me to come in and not just be a great player for this franchise but also a leader.”

Subban even admitted he feels a “whole lot closer” to winning the Cup as a result of this trade.

“I just feel good knowing that a team has moved someone to bring me in because they want me,” he said. “Just happy to be in a situation where I can excel and feel good coming to the rink every day about myself, about the team, about my position. More importantly, I just look forward to trying to win a Stanley Cup. That’s your ultimate goal, and I feel that I got a whole lot closer to doing that today.”

Weber posted the following message addressed to the Nashville organization, to the Predators fans and to his teammates.


 

Though this is a gutsy move for both organizations, the risk is a bit steeper down the line for the Predators, who will face severe recapture penalties should Weber retire before the end of the contract. Thanks to a 2012 offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers, Weber has 10 years remaining on his 14-year, $110 million contract. Since he will be 31 by the time the 2016-2017 season starts, it’s not unreasonable to assume he may very well retire before the contract is up, especially since he’ll only be making $1 million in each of the last three years of the deal.

But in Poile’s mind, that’s a risk worth taking, a problem that can be dealt with at a later date. He would much rather make a huge move to put his team that much closer to contending for a Cup than play it safe.
 

Final Thought

At the end of the day, two organizations made a monumental, franchise-altering move today that will change both teams forever. It is practically unheard of to see teams swap all-star players, but it’s especially rare to see teams trade franchise defensemen, the most coveted players in the game. It seems the general consensus gives Nashville the win in this deal, but both Bergevin and Poile will make additional moves this offseason that will further alter the course of their teams. Analyzing a trade like this is never a cut-and-dry matter, though Subban and Weber will be forever linked and compared. But no matter what, both teams will be very different come October, and anything can happen.
 

Featured Image Credit: Bruce Bennett-Getty Images