Predators steal P.K. Subban from Canadiens (Trending Topics)

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LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03: P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings to trail 2-1 during the first period at Staples Center on March 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 03: P.K. Subban #76 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates his goal against the Los Angeles Kings to trail 2-1 during the first period at Staples Center on March 3, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Let’s suppose for a second that Shea Weber is a better defenseman than PK Subban.

He’s not. He’s not close, actually. But let’s suppose he is: Even in that scenario, this is a trade Marc Bergevin lost badly to David Poile. Based on the economics alone.

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This wasn’t exactly something you could look up easily in the wake of ‘The Transactioning.’ This trade, like the one that sent Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson (the worst NHL trade of the salary cap era, without qualification), and the news that Steven Stamkos was staying in Tampa for eight years at $8.5 million per (an exceedingly reasonable deal), crashed basically every hockey contract site you can think of. More fuel for the Gary Bettman-stoked fire that fans don’t care about this stuff, to be sure.

Here are the basic financial implications of this deal. Nashville adds a little more than $1.14 million to its salary cap obligations but actually saves a bit of money on the signing bonus and salary it will pay out in the next few years. In return Nashville gets out from under signing bonus payouts the next two summers of $8 million apiece, after eating $13 million bonuses the last four July 1s.

Subban has a cap hit of $9 million for the duration of his deal (six more years), while Weber’s AAV is a shade under $7.86 million (10 more).

Nashville also gets an inarguably elite-level defender who is effectively four years younger and signed for four fewer seasons. Subban turned 27 in mid-May and is signed through his age-33 season in 2021-22. Weber will be 31 in August and is signed through his age-40 campaign in 2025-26.

This is what the actual cash payouts look like by year (signing bonuses included):

Chart from Ryan Lambert
Chart from Ryan Lambert

It’s a $4 million difference in actual money, and Weber is theoretically cheap in the final four years of that deal, when Subban will be up for a new contract at 33. If Weber comes close to the end of that deal, which he might not because he’s a big physical defensemen and they tend not to age well, Montreal still carries the cap hit but probably doesn’t mind about the money.

However, apportioned over six years, the additional $4 million in dollars spent is probably well worth it to Nashville because they just don’t have to pay a guy until he’s 40. On the other hand, if Weber retires before his contract comes to an end, the cap recapture penalty could be significant.

Of course, that might just be something the Preds can trade to a team in much the same way as a Datsyuk or Savard contract, or it might not matter when the next CBA comes around. Or they might not really care because who knows what the cap looks like four, five, six years from now? And more to the point, it’s something they would have had to deal with regardless.

In short, this is still a good gamble by the Predators plain and simple. And remember, that’s if Weber is better than Subban right now, which he is not.

The Corsi Police have been banging the drum that Shea Weber is overrated for quite a while now, but simply put the hockey world — including the bulk of PHWA voters — still haven’t caught up. Weber finished ahead of Subban in Norris balloting this year, but even then Weber only cracked the top 10 by the slimmest of margins, ahead of Duncan Keith, who is also significantly better than him.

Here’s a quick illustration from Travis Yost that shows all the areas in which Subban was better than Weber this season, relative to a replacement-level defender. It’s a pretty wide gap:


Weber only leads Subban in two categories at 5-on-5: Individual shot attempt generation (a margin of about 0.4 extra attempts per 60 minutes), and overall goal suppression. The numbers are right there for all to see, but to contextualize the goals number, Weber played in front of Pekka Rinne all year, versus Subban playing in front of Mike Condon. That’s a good explainer, for me.

And just to show that this isn’t only this year in which Subban has been better than Weber, let’s go three years back, which is the generally accepted period that highlights player quality best.

Chart from Ryan Lambert
Chart from Ryan Lambert

What we have here is a guy in his prime against a guy aging out of it. And while Subban isn’t going to stay 27 forever, the idea of him at 29, 30, and even 33 years old is a lot more appealing than Weber, who will be 33, 34, and 37 simultaneously.

Subban generates more shots, allows fewer, scores more, allows more or less the same, drives play relative to his teammates, gets in on more goals, and so on. If you think the increased turnover numbers cancel out the added value, I can say, candidly, that you’re off your rocker.

And sure, those stats are only at 5-on-5, and Weber kills more penalties and is a similar weapon on the power play. But I’d rather have Subban picking up the extra minutes at full strength and still scoring a ton on the man advantage than put him out there blocking shots.

There is, frankly, no justification for this trade in hockey terms from Montreal’s point of view. Subban is the better player with the better contract. Adding him to a group that includes Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, and Ryan Ellis instantly gives Nashville arguably the top D group in the league, behind some high-level forwards including Filip Forsberg, James Neal, and Ryan Johansen. Put that in front of Pekka Rinne — who really rebounded after a rough start — and this is a team that is, in P.K. Subban’s words, a lot closer to the Cup than the Canadiens. And they also have almost $6 million to spend (not including some RFAs who need new deals).

Meanwhile, Montreal did nothing to address the massive problems it has with its roster, getting older, slower, and worse on the blue line. The very minimal cap savings they get from the deal effectively don’t do them much good.

This was a “culture” deal, because the Habs didn’t like P.K. the Person, as well as P.K. the Player. On a day with two very bad trades, Bergevin is lucky this he’s not the GM who looks worse in the league, but he still looks really bad. The hockey world should be agog at how badly Ray Shero fleeced Peter Chiarelli, but honestly, sentiments seem to be split right down the middle as to which GM is more incompetent.

Let’s just put it this way: Poile saw a market inefficiency — a weirdly undervalued former Norris winner who does everything well — and a mark who didn’t understand he was setting himself to be ripped off. And it’s the second time he’s done it in six months. In the way as getting Ryan Johansen for his team’s third- or fourth-best defenseman was robbery because he saw an out-of-his-depth GM with a need (no D help), this was grand larceny because he saw another out-of-his-depth defenseman with another need (to get rid of a potential future Hall of Famer).

Poile may play in the toughest division in hockey, but his team now looks more than equipped to handle anything that Dallas, Chicago, or St. Louis can throw at it.

PK Subban for Shea Weber. Never thought I’d see the day.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

All stats via Corsica unless otherwise stated.

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