As the trade deadline inches closer, rumors will continue to swirl about which players might be moved on or before March 21. In the spirit of one of the most hectic days in the hockey calendar, I have put together a mini-series breaking down players the New Jersey Devils could move and what contending teams should expect from these players. The next player we will dissect is veteran defenseman P.K. Subban.
Hockey insider Pierre LeBrun shared the news that Devils’ general manager Tom Fitzgerald had a chat with Subban this past weekend with the trade deadline two weeks away. He admitted during his interview with LeBrun that he is not looking to extend Subban, and if the opportunity presents itself the blueliner could be on the move. Fitzgerald did follow that by saying he would only move him at the deadline if the right opportunity presented itself and acknowledges his club would have to retain some of his salary. Prior to his trade to New Jersey, he was considered one of the best defensemen in the league and for this specific profile, it is worth it to take a look back to examine where he is now.
Subban’s Journey to New Jersey
Subban began his career with the Montreal Canadiens. He spent his first seven seasons playing in the mecca of hockey, and earned the Norris Trophy at the 2013 NHL Awards after earning 71 percent of the voting. He was named a finalist two additional times, finishing third in voting in both 2015 and 2018. He eventually became part of a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Nashville Predators in exchange for Shea Weber.
The six-foot defenseman suited up for 211 games in Smashville. He found himself mostly paired with Mattias Ekholm, and put up 130 points over three seasons. Subban’s second NHL team reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, eventually falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins. In June of 2019 he found himself involved in another trade, only this time his destination was New Jersey. The Devils traded a 2019 second-round draft pick, 2020 second-round draft, Jeremy Davies and Steven Santini to Nashville in exchange for the defenseman and Adam Helewka. The latter never played for the Devils and after a season in the KHL is currently with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.
Trying to Do It All for the Devils
When Subban became part of the Devils blue line he was joining Damon Severson, Sami Vatanen, Will Butcher, Andy Greene, Mirco Mueller and Connor Carrick. Currently two of those defenseman are playing overseas, and one is in the American Hockey League (AHL). It’s safe to say statistically this was not the strongest defensive core the organization has seen. At the time of the trade Subban seemed to be everything New Jersey needed. He would be the star defenseman that would be part of the future along with Taylor Hall and Jack Hughes. People around the league were skeptical including NHL executives, coaches, and scouts who felt that his game was on the decline as he was approaching 30-years-old. Regardless of the noise surrounding Subban, he came to New Jersey expected to help a struggling power play and be the defenseman that the organization was desperately been looking for.
In Subban’s first season with the Devils he was averaging a little over 22 minutes of ice time, which was second-most among all defensemen behind Severson. He finished his first campaign in New Jersey with 151 shots, the most among blueliners, and 90 blocked shots. He spent time quarterbacking the power play, along with Vatanen, which was ranked 21st in the league. By the time the season was suspended in March, fans were left feeling that Subban attempted to put the weight of team’s defense on his shoulders and do a little too much on the ice. During Devils media day in September, Subban talked about becoming more comfortable in his sophomore season with the Devils.
“The first year is really really tough with a lot of changes,” said Subban. “With our team obviously a new general manager, a new coach for me to start the season and then a new general manager and new coach a couple of months in. A lot of changes going to a traditionally young team from a Presidents’ Trophy team. There were a lot of adjustments that were made and I think last year I was able to kind of just simplify what my role is and what the expectations were and I think the results were a lot better.”
That theme of Subban trying to do too much on the ice would carry over until the Devils bolstered their blue line with Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler. This season Subban has been mostly utilized as a depth defenseman and has played a steady game in his new limited role.
A Review of His Play This Season
The Toronto native has appeared in 53 games, third-most among Devils defensemen. The one thing fans noticed is that being paired with 24-year-old Siegenthaler has brought a noticeable stability to his game. Subban has not been regularly used to quarterback the power play, but has filled in for his teammates averaging a little over a minute of ice time on the man advantage. Similarly, he is not consistency on the penalty kill, and will sporadically be used depending on who is in the lineup. There is no denying his role has been limited, but it has not negatively effected his performance.
Is Subban Worth Taking a Chance On?
In the right situation I am going to say yes, he is worth it. Like we said earlier, Fitzgerald is aware that he will have to retain some of Subban’s $9 million cap hit, and to that regard it’s tough to say what a trade package would look like. The Toronto Maple Leafs are in need of a right-shooting defenseman to partner with Jake Muzzin, and the Calgary Flames are looking for defensive depth. Subban could do well in both of those situations.
Subban is an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the season, and will most likely be a rental for a contending team if calls are made to Fitzgerald. In addition to what he brings on the ice he works with multiple charities and adds value to the community that he plays for. Even at 32-years-old has plenty to offer an organization if it is the right fit, and hockey fans would love to see the personable defenseman move on to lift the Stanley Cup.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.