Some Things In Hockey Can’t Be Explained, Others...

Marc Elliott

ST. PAUL…. As followers of the game know by now, my long time favorites, the Montreal Canadiens have traded All Star blueliner PK Subban. This move had been rumored for months but every time the media got a whiff of the story and what might be going on, Habs GM Marc Bergevin would snuff it out one way or another. A deal was finally consummated with Subban going to the Nashville Predators and fan favorite defenseman and also an All Star, Shea Weber, he of the monster slapshot, was headed north and east. Montreal fans have expressed their dismay in about every form imaginable short of hanging Bergie in effigy, and I’m not entirely uncertain that that hasn’t happened somewhere in Quebec.
For me? I was listening live on NHL Network radio when the news went down. At first I said (and out loud) Holy-you-know-what! But then I kind of settled back down and decided to get into the 5 ‘W’s” of this matter, the who, what, why, where, and when. We know all of the answers to the “W’s” involved excepting the “why”. And honestly, we might never know the real reason for that. But the deal is done, signed and sealed. Both Subban and Weber expressed surprise at the news. However, the more I analyzed it I could see reasoning from both parties that made sense. Most Pro analysts though are already awarding Nashville with the win in this deal.
Lets look at the tale of the tape; Weber will turn 31 years old in about a month, Subban is only 27. Weber scores more goals then Subban, PK gets more assists then Weber. I would say that Subban is probably the superior playmaker to Weber and gets more involved in his clubs offensive schemes. Weber has that cannon from the point and the best thing opponents can do when he lets it go is to get out of the way. Weber has given more value to the Canadian National team then has Subban. Weber has Olympic Gold’s from Vancouver and Sochi, while Subban was on the Sochi entry but was considered to be a fringe player for that squad. The question marks arose from the perception of Subban’s defensive play. While not flat out saying he is a defensive liability, his overall defensive game does not match Weber’s. Weber has a much tougher blue line game then does Subban. He plays the backline with a hard edge authority and Subban does not match that at this point in his career and I don’t think that’s his game anyway.
On the contract front, Weber was involved in a UFA offer sheet dilemma in the summer of 2012 and without going into the details, (they are a mess) the Flyers (doncha love em’?) forced Nashville to tender a 14 year, $110mil deal to Weber to keep him which included a $68mil signing bonus. The contract was a front loaded deal and Nashville has already absorbed ($56mil) a pretty big chunk of it. The problem for the Habs is that while the annual dollars and cap hit are becoming more manageable, this maniacal contract has Weber locked up until 2026! He would be 41. Unless he is the new Nick Lidstrom, I do not see this player in a uniform at that age. The final 3 years are at $1mil per.
Subban has a fairly new contract, signing an 8 year, $72mil deal in the summer of  2014 on the heels of an arbitration hearing. While awaiting the arbiter’s award, PK and the club forged this deal. It runs through the 2021-22 season. His deal included a $25.5mil signing bonus but the big payouts in his deal take place over the next 4 seasons commencing in the upcoming year. He will pull $11mil the next 2 seasons between bonus and salary and then $10mil the following 2 years after that. You can see the way both deals are structured at spotrac.com/nhl. There remains $58mil on the Subban deal and $54mil on Weber’s, almost negligible. Nashville will be taking the larger cap hit of the two deals, hence, the Habs get a minor amount of cap relief.     
So, the Habs boost their goal scoring ability, they likely get a bit better on defense and improve their cap number a bit. But lets get down to the nitty-gritty! The word on the street is that PK was a pain in the ass. The word is that there existed friction between he and several teammates, not just one here or there, that he and Captain Max Pacioretty were not getting along and that PK put the spotlight on himself too much on and off the ice and that just isn’t the Habs style. I know, now we are traveling right into the staid conservative behavior of NHL players. Guys who are supposed to be without personality, clones to the core. I get it and in witnessing what goes on with some players from other leagues, I am glad the NHL has the tremendous young men that it does. And PK is one of them.
But…. people had spoke to him about “toning it down” a bit and it didn’t appear any results were on the way. This was the team of probably the classiest player of all time in Jean Beliveau’. Nothing was ever about him, his humility wrapped itself around him at all times. And that very same behavioral mode is still demanded of all Habs players. I would observe PK and wonder what the fuss was about. But there had to be some behind the scenes issues that we were not privy to. Finally, in PK’s first interview after the trade I got the look into PK that may have been before me for a long time but that I couldn’t or didn’t want to see.
In about a 5 minute spot I didn’t hear one thing about the team although he expressed how much he liked the city (MON) and I didn’t hear much about the Pred’s either. What I heard was a lot of PK talk by….. PK. I looked down at the floor. Perhaps he really had worn out his welcome in Montreal. Perhaps he isn’t a good listener and perhaps he didn’t really like Montreal as much as he was always telling us he did, or maybe he may have changed his ways? Kind of reminds me of a young gregarious Ric Flair asking the vet wrestler Larry Hennig how he thought he was doing. Hennig’s classic response; “well kid, you’ve got all the $#*&!* around down pretty good.” PEACE

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