After a quiet start to NHL draft weekend on the trade front we got our first blockbuster of the offseason on Saturday afternoon when the Nashville Predators sent defender P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils.
In return for Subban the Predators will receive Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, and two second-round draft picks (one in 2019 and one in 2020).
There’s a lot to unwrap here for both sides so let’s break it down for each time, starting with Nashville.
In terms of assets, the Predators are not getting a ton back here. Santini is a 24-year-old defender with 112 games in the NHL under his belt, while Davies was a seventh-round pick of the Devils in 2016. Davies has yet to play a game of professional hockey and has spent the past three years playing at Northeastern University. He definitely has potential, but neither player figures to be an impact player in the NHL.
The 2019 second-round pick was No. 34 selection, which the Predators promptly traded to the Philadelphia Flyers for the No. 45 and No. 65 picks in the 2019 draft.
The biggest key here for Nashville, though, is salary cap relief.
The Predators are retaining zero salary in this trade which means all of Subban’s $9 million salary cap hit in each of the next three seasons comes off of their books. This creates a ton of salary cap flexibility for them that will allow them to, presumably, re-sign Roman Josi (who is due for a massive raise on his current $4 million salary cap hit through the end of this season) and take a run at a significant player in free agency, such as Matt Duchene.
Whether or not that makes them a better team in the short-term is up for debate, but general manager David Poile obviously felt he needed to dip into his surplus of defenders in an effort to bolster his forward group. He confirmed as much in the team’s press release announcing the trade.
“We appreciate P.K.’s contribution to the Predators and the Nashville community over the past three seasons, which have seen our organization have unprecedented success,” Poile said. “He was an integral part of our run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the 2018 Presidents’ Trophy and back-to-back Central Division titles. His work off the ice speaks for itself – he was an impactful member of our community, especially through the groundbreaking Blueline Buddies initiative.
“We had to make a business decision. With an aim at strengthening our forward corps this offseason, and the continued strength of our defensive group, we felt it was necessary to clear up salary cap space this way.”
On Saturday Subban posted a two-minute video saying goodbye to Nashville and thanking the Predators fans and organization.
Now for the Devils.
Let’s start with this: Wow.
This has been a massive weekend for the future of the organization as they have added two huge pieces in less than 24 hours.
On Friday night they selected Jack Hughes with the No. 1 overall pick, adding him to a core that already includes 2017 No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier and Taylor Hall, the NHL MVP from the 2017-18 season.
Now they added a superstar to their lineup without really having to give up anything of significance from their organization.
Even if Subban, who will now be entering his age 30 season, is not quite what he was a couple of years ago he is still an impact player offensively and adds a dimension to the Devils’ lineup that they did not have on their blue line, and they had more than enough salary cap space to make it happen.
The Devils obviously had a disappointing year, and even though some regression was expected after their surprising 2017-18 performance injuries (including a major one to Hall) definitely played a significant role in their struggles. The return of a healthy Hall and the additions of Hughes and Subban should make the Devils way more interesting (and better!) this season.
Even after the addition of Subban and his contract the Devils will still have somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 million in salary cap space to work with.
It is also another huge move for Ray Shero as the team’s GM. Three years ago he managed to acquire Hall from the Edmonton Oilers for the low, low, low price of Adam Larsson, and now gets Subban without having to give up a top prospect, a key piece of his roster, or a first-round pick.
Shero’s next big order of business: Trying to figure out a way to sign Hall to an extension as his contract expires at the end of this season. Adding a player like Subban to the lineup can’t possibly hurt in that quest.