The day I have dreaded since the Dallas Stars booted the Predators out of the playoffs with all the force of a Falcon Kick is here. P.K. Subban’s name is appearing in trade rumors as the 2019 NHL Draft gets set to begin in Vancouver. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m generally against trading Subban, which is the correct opinion here. Don’t worry. I’ll explain why.
The Subban rumors have been heating up as the draft got closer, but things got really real when Uncle Bob tweeted out what he’s been hearing just hours before the first round of the draft.
Not getting caught up in semantics of “shopped” vs. “listening” — been there, done that, circa June, 2016 — but P.K. Subban’s name is out there floating around in the trade-sphere. NSH believed to be looking to clear cap space for either UFA shopping (Duchene?) or Josi extension.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 21, 2019
Shedding Subban to simply create cap space is an incredibly ill-advised move. I love Roman Josi, and my hockey lust over Matt Duchene is well-documented. HOWEVA, keeping Subban at his current contract would be smarter than getting ride of him to pay Josi and/or Duchene a Brinks truck full of money.Why? For starters, let’s quickly check in with Father Time.
Subban is the oldest of the three players at 30, but Josi is only one year younger (29) and Duchene is only two years younger (28). In all likelihood, the Predators will have to give Josi and Duchene lengthy contracts at at least $9 million, if not more. Subban sits squarely at $9 million per season right now with just three years left on his deal.
Of course, age and money aren’t the only factors to consider when making a decision like this. If Josi and/or Duchene brought markedly more value to the table than Subban, then this type of move might make sense. Alas, they don’t. Let’s start with Subban vs. Josi.
It pains me to choose between my two large adult sons, but all of Twitter and apparently David Poile have put me in this position. Subban is a better all-around defender than Josi. This is an objective fact. The first thing Subban haters will whine about is his turnovers. Yes, he has some obvious and egregious turnovers at times, but turnovers is a pathetic way to judge a player’s worth. Mattias Ekholm led the Preds in turnovers last season with 69 (nice). Is he bad? No, quite the opposite. Forsberg, Johansen, Josi, and Ellis all had more turnovers than Subban in 208-19. Do fans want to trade all of them too? Of course not. Why do these good players have so many turnovers? It’s simply a volume thing. Great players have the puck on their stick far more often. The more the puck is on your stick, the more opportunities there will be to turn it over. So please shut up about turnovers, I beg you.
Yes, Josi has had better offensive numbers in two of Subban’s three seasons with Nashville. However, Subban missed significant time with injury in both of those seasons. As a quick aside, health is one of very few valid reasons to worry about Subban. Anyway, Subban provides more value in all three zones. Subban’s offensive ability is easy to see with his “Subby-dooby-doo” spin-o-rama move on defenders at the blue line, but offense starts in the defensive zone, and few are better at creating transition offense than Subban. Take the Stars series, for example. In a series where the Predators couldn’t exit their own zone to save their lives, Subban was the only reliable player in doing so.
#Preds defense had a weird night. Of 58 attempts to exit the zone, they exited 50 of those times. Sounds great, right? Here's the issue, 26 of those were dump outs and essentially turnovers. Subban had a tremendous night with 14 successful exits, 7 with possession
— George Matarangas (@GeorgeM1019) April 16, 2019
Subban is able to quickly get the puck out of the Nashville zone, but he’s able to do it in a way that translates to shots and offense for the Preds. That is reflected in the #fancystats. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just take a look at this year’s lone playoff series. In Game 1, Josi and Ellis were notably better than Subban and Ekholm (even though Subban and Josi both scored). Beyond that, Subban and Ekholm were at least equal, but more often than not they were better. Below are the 5-on-5 shot attempts for games 2 through 6.
Subban and Ekholm were almost always on the ride side of the possession battle, but the same can’t be said for Josi and Ellis. Don’t get me wrong, Josi is a net positive every time he’s on the ice, but Subban is still the superior player.
Now let’s dive into Subban vs. Duchene. As this article from On the Forecheck points out, Duchene is quite good at converting chances into goals — something the Preds need. Outside of that, however, there isn’t much that would warrant a payday of between $9 million and $10 million per season. When it comes to possession and shot locations, Duchene has been average to above average recently. Getting rid of Subban at nine sheets per year is not worth signing Duchene for 9.5 sheets per year into his mid-to-late 30s.
I fear that a certain segment of the Predator fan base won’t know what they have until it’s gone. If the Predators trade Subban then have an even harder time exiting their own zone with possession or produce less offense from the blue line, I don’t want anyone crying into their overpriced Miller Lites. That’s what happens when you ship off a player like Subban.
Quickly, another piece of news that has disturbed me greatly is that a Canadian radio personality said he’s been hearing the Preds would be willing to retain salary to make a deal work.
Dave Pagnotta on SN650: Nashville has made it known that they are willing to retain salary on PK Subban for the right deal.
— James (@Account4hockey) June 21, 2019
This would cause me to lose it. Trading a player of Subban’s caliber and still somehow retaining some of his cap hit would be send me off the deep end. Not getting equal value in return is bad enough, but then continuing to burden yourself with his salary after getting robbed is flat out lunacy.
Now, let me discuss the ONE hypothetical trade being thrown around that I would not hate. If Subban were to go to Toronto and Mitch Marner were to sign a deal worth around $11 million per year coming back the other way, I’d be cool with it. Marner is the ripe old age of 22 and already has 224 points in 241 career NHL games. He’d come with a rich cap hit, but you’d be paying him for what he can do instead of what he has done. In terms of what the two teams need, this trade would make a lot of sense, and Nashville would be getting eight years younger.
Outside of that trade or a very similar one, keep Subban’s name out of your mouth, Poile.