Making Sense of the Subban for Weber Trade

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Wednesday, July 28, 2016, will be a date to remember in the NHL, also in Montreal. First, a report came out that the Edmonton Oilers had traded their most productive offensive player in the past few seasons, Taylor Hall, for a once promising young defenseman in Adam Larsson. Minutes later, Sportsnet insider Nick Kypreos shocked the Twitter world by announcing that the Canadiens had traded P.K. Subban for Shea Weber. Not to be outdone, TSN insider Bob McKenzie was announcing soon after that pending UFA Steven Stamkos would remain with the Tampa Bay Lightning. All of that within about a 20 minute span!

While everyone was still wondering what hit Oilers’ GM Peter Chiarelli on the head for almost giving away one of his best assets, the Subban trade is what took my Twitter timeline by storm. Subban is a well liked athlete in Montreal and he loves the City… and fans reacted with great emotion, understandably so. While Andrei Markov was a great player in his prime, the Canadiens hadn’t had such a talent on their blue line since Chris Chelios and he too found himself traded early in his career. And when I dared take to Twitter to mention that once emotions would settle, this trade was actually a good one for the Habs, some referred to me as a “tool” and other kind words like it. But it’s impossible to explain, in 140 characters, the thought process of such affirmation on my part.

Good for the Preds

Subban is not only a great player, he is a marketing sensation and in a non-traditional market like Nashville, he will sell hockey by his personality and his play on the ice. Further, he has a big heart and means well, as proven by many public appearances with fans and his gigantic donation last year.

But if fans were only willing to take a step back, they would recognise that Subban has never been unanimous amongst his peers and around the NHL. Fans in Montreal can claim as high and loud as they want that he’s better than others, it seems like it’s just in Montreal that people think that way. Hockey Canada certainly doesn’t seem to see Subban as high and the Habs’ fan base does and my point is not to see who is right or wrong, but simply to point out the reality of the situation.

No risk for the Habs

If you have kept reading to this point, you will better understand why this trade makes a lot of sense for the Canadiens. It’s not arbitrary, it’s not (all) based on statistics, it’s real and here’s why.

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Source: generalfanager.com

First, the contracts. Subban’s no movement clause is kicking in on July 1st, two days after the trade was consumed, and has six years left. After that date, if the Habs ever wanted to trade him for whatever reasons, Subban could nip the deal or screw the team by limiting the number of teams to which he would accept to be traded to. As history has shown us, teams never get fair market value in such cases. His cap hit for those six years is $9 million.

Yes, Weber has 10 years left to his contract but here’s why it’s a better contract. Because he signed an offer sheet from the Flyers and the Preds matched it, he doesn’t have any NTC or NMC attached to it. Further, it’s one of those old front loaded contracts, where he is getting paid most of his money early on and gets peanuts at the end. What this means is that the Canadiens will have the flexibility to trade Weber at any time, and teams trying to get to the floor will love to take on that contract, as we’re seeing more and more. Further, the Canadiens have zero risk because if Weber decided to retire prior to the end of his contract, the penalty would be solely on the Predators. In the meantime, Marc Bergevin‘s team is saving as Weber’s cap hit is just under $7.9 million.

But why did the Predators call Montreal to trade Weber if he’s such a great player?
– One word: MONEY. In addition to his salary, the Preds had to give Weber another $8 million by July 1st, then do the same a year from now. Now, they don’t have to.

Beyond the contracts, you have the much publicised dressing room chemistry. Weber was the Predators’ captain. Much more than that, he was named the NHL’s best leader, receiving the Mark Messier Award. He is more of the “traditional” leader, which is night and day from what Subban was. While this doesn’t matter to many fans, you can bet your house that chemistry is important and that he will be fitting much, much better in the dressing room.

 

Last but not least, Shea Weber trains with Carey Price in the summer in Kelowna. Aside from Josh Gorges and Duncan Keith, guess who trains with them? None other than pending UFA Andrew Ladd. I’m not saying that Ladd will be signing with the Canadiens but you can be certain that Bergevin could very well use those cards to lure him to wear the bleu-blanc-rouge starting next year.

In conclusion, both teams will be happy with this trade, a rare trade that suits both parties and while the players themselves might be shocked for the time being, they will get used to their new surroundings and both should make the most of it. I’m just hoping that the level-headed fans in Montreal will out-number those who will hate Weber simply because he happened to be the one the Canadiens’ got in return for their favourite player. To me, for five decades and counting, the logo in front of the jersey has always been and will always be much, much bigger than the name in the back. This “tool” thinks that Bergevin did very well with that trade. Welcome to Montreal Shea and wishing you all the success with your new team, my favourite team.

Who Will Gamble on Stamkos?

Stamkos

Not so long ago, the potential of seeing Steven Stamkos hitting the free agents’ market was making a lot of teams and general managers drool over the possibility of having the opportunity to get a shot at convincing him to agree to a contract with them. After all, how often does a 27 year-old, at the prime of his career, becomes free to sign with whomever he wants? How many natural goals’ scorers, in recent history, have become available as unrestricted free agents, particularly at such a young age?

Well it seems like you can thank the salary cap, at least in part, for making Stamkos available and putting the Tampa Bay Lighting in a tough position. While there is no doubt that Steve Yzerman still wants to re-sign his team captain, he may not have the choice but to either trade him at the draft, or let him walk on July first. If that happens, he will be leaving a huge void on that team and that, even if they did rather well in his absence, particularly in the playoffs.

Damaged goods?

Not so long ago, several teams were rumoured to have interest in Stamkos, with the Toronto Maple Leafs as one of the favourite destinations. The New York Rangers were rumoured to be willing to trade Rick Nash in order to free up enough cap space to allow the team to make a move for the Lightning’s captain. At that time, we have even looked at odds for the Habs to sign Stamkos.

Since then though, things have changed. No, the Lightning did not re-sign their star player… yet. However, Stamkos has since missed a considerable amount of time due to a blood clot near his right collarbone, and he had have surgery in hope to resolve the issue. It turns out that Stamkos was diagnosed with the same condition as Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and in the medical field, it is believed to be “fixable and temporary”.

Unlike Kimmo Timonen and Pascal Dupuis, both now retired due to different types of blood clots, Stamkos made a return during the playoffs in a failed attempt to prevent his team’s elimination. That being said, the problem is that blood thinners still are a component of the treatment, at least for the first three or four months. He SHOULD be fine after that and doctors believe that the blood clot issue has been fixed. All agree that the biggest challenge or question mark in the case of Stamkos will be due to the fact that there are a lot of moving part where the surgery occurred and no one knows for sure how it will have affected the sharp shooter.

Teams interested in Stamkos will definitely be doing their own homework, as well as they will be contacting insurance companies to find out if his new contract can be insured. Imagine an owner agreeing to pay Stamkos an average of $11 million per season for seven years, and Stamkos’ problems re-occur… with an insurance clause leaving that owner having to pay that contract without his services! More than cap implication, few owners can sustain non only paying him while he’s out, but spending up to the equivalent of Stamkos’ contract to get more players to fill the void hockey-wise.

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Could P.K. Subban convince Steven Stamkos to sign with the Canadiens?

Potential gamblers

While, as mentioned before, several factors will play into the decision of offering a contract to Stamkos, including owners’ approval and medical opinions, there are a couple of teams who could easily afford to take a flyer on him. Of course, the New York Rangers who paid Wade Redden $6.5 million to play in the minors, are more than capable to pay even if Stamkos was forced to put an end to a season. New York must, however, clear up a lot of cap space to make that happen.

Another team which can do so is the Toronto Maple Leafs and unlike the Rangers, they already have plenty of cap space available to lure the Toronto native. Having the first overall pick at this upcoming draft and Mike Babcock as head coach might be enough to convince Stamkos that the Leafs could be a very desirable location for him to continue his career.

Like many other teams prior to Stamkos’ blood clot issue, the Canadiens will have to rely heavily on medical advise in order to decide if they will or not be key players in convincing Stamkos to come and play in La Belle Province. Also, while the Molson family is quite well off, they did not make their fortune by taking $77 million risks and only THEY know if it’s a risk that they are willing or able to take.

Either way, we should find out within the next two to three weeks… unless Stamkos takes his time before making a decision. Like most fans and members of the media, I am hoping that it doesn’t drag on for weeks this summer.