Much of the hockey world was blown away Wednesday when the Nashville Predators traded Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for P.K. Subban.
In both cities, the respective fan bases hated to see their star defensemen be traded. Some fans were even brought to tears. For Nashville, however, the pain of losing their long-time captain eased by acquiring a youthful, energetic and all-around fun guy in Subban.
In most cases, trading Weber would make him irreplaceable on the blue line. But trading him for Subban? Well, the Predators may have even upgraded.
Regardless of the end result in this trade, Nashville will miss Weber. However, here are three reasons to believe the Predators won this trade.
Unloading Weber’s Contract
In 2012, the Predators were forced into an unideal long-term, high-money contract with Weber after signing an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers. Heavily front-loaded, Weber received a 14-year, $110 million contract. Weber’s declining play as of late made it more realistic than ever that the Predators were willing to deal him for the right price.
Subban was that right price.
Subban’s contract through 2021-22 breaks down like this: $11 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18, $10 million in 2018-19 and 2019-20, and $8 million in 2020-21 and 2021-22. He will also have a $9 million cap hit.
For Weber, his contract through 2025-26 breaks down like this: $12 million in 2016-17 and 2017-18; $6 million in 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22; $3 million in 2022-23; and $1 million in 2023-24, 2024-25 and 2025-26.
Though the Predators will be paying more short-term for Subban, it is well worth shedding Weber’s long-term contract with a high cap hit.
Weber Declining, Subban Rising
Weber will turn 31 in August, while Subban recently turned 27 in May. Weber is on the tail end of his prime, while Subban is just entering his prime. In the past four seasons, Subban, though younger, has outscored Weber 202-180.
Further evidence from Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet:
No player in the NHL made more plays with the puck per minute played than Subban, while Weber ranked a lowly 216th of 256 in terms of involvement in the play, and it gets worse when you compare the two directly.
Only Erik Karlsson compares favourably to Subban’s contribution in generating scoring chances, and Weber isn’t even among the top 30.
Carrying the puck out is the mark of an elite puck-moving defenceman, and Subban does that at more than three times the rate of Weber.
A similar story applies to loose puck recoveries, where Subban is the envy of the league for winning puck battles in the defensive zone and Weber ranks 202nd, between Braydon Coburn and Jack Johnson.
Even in something as simple as completed passes, Subban’s numbers blow Weber’s out of the water, and this is without even getting into each player’s impact on shot attempt differentials, where Subban is perhaps the best possession defenceman in the NHL the past four years — easily in the top five — and Weber is a consistent negative, despite playing with Roman Josi.
It became evident Weber was no longer the best defenseman on the Predators two seasons ago. Josi led the team’s loaded defense corps in time on ice, assists, points and blocked shots last season. Weber showed signs of slowing down, and it was never more evident than in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Jose Sharks. Weber was a minus-3 in a franchise-defining, 5-0 loss that ended the club’s longest playoff run in history.
New Scene for Subban
The Canadiens could never accept Subban for what he truly was — charming, charismatic and confident. Subban wears flashy suits and celebrates energetically. It is refreshing to see an NHL player step outside of the ordinary mold of keeping a low profile. The NHL needs that type of player, but the Canadiens were not going to have any part of it. There was a disconnect between Subban’s spirited personality and Montreal head coach Michel Therrien’s rigid attitude. One of them was bound to depart soon, but it was nearly inconceivable that it would be Subban to go.
P.K. Subban announcing the starting lineup for the Habs. A must watch ??pic.twitter.com/QInq3MbQ6n
— NHL Humor (@TheNHLHumor) January 9, 2016
Subban will have an opportunity to be himself in Nashville without the pressure of being in a Canadian market and the traditional style of an Original Six franchise in his own barn.
“I just feel good knowing that a team has moved someone to bring me in because they want me,” Subban said. “They moved a great player. Probably somebody that was the last player that everybody thought would be moved, but they moved a great player and their captain to bring me in. Obviously that shows a team that wants you. I’m 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 will make his return to Nashville with the Canadiens on Jan. 3.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.