NHL Trade Deadline Primer: P.K. Subban likely available, but options are limited
The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban.
The Devils have made some significant efforts over the past few years to return to relevance in the NHL.
They have had two No. 1 overall picks (Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes) and made some fairly significant offseason additions in an effort to strengthen their roster, from this offseason’s signing of Dougie Hamilton in free agency, to the trade for Taylor Hall, to the 2019 offseason that saw them add Nikita Gusev, Wayne Simmonds, and P.K. Subban to the roster.
No matter the trades, no matter the draft picks, no matter the money spent the results have mostly been the same: A team that can not escape the basement of the Metropolitan Division and has missed the playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons since their Stanley Cup Final appearance a decade ago. This season will be the fourth consecutive non-playoff season in New Jersey. That has them as sellers ahead of the 2022 NHL trade deadline.
They do not have a ton of candidates though, as Subban and forward Jimmy Vesey are the only pending unrestricted free agents on the roster.
General manager Tom Fitzgerald has already informed Subban that the Devils will not offer him an extension prior to the trade deadline, and that if a trade makes sense for the team and player they will move him.
That seems pretty definitive, and the only question that remains now is what team might make sense.
What the return might look like
This is probably not going to be a significant return. Subban still has a lot of talent and is by no means a bad player, but he is not the impact player he was at his peak when he was a consistent contender for the Norris Trophy and one of the most electrifying players in the league. We still see glimpses of that player, but it is simply not there as consistently. Add in the fact he is a pending unrestricted free agent after this season and he has a $9 million salary cap hit and there are not many teams that have the ability to easily swing that sort of trade. New Jersey is almost certainly going to have to retain some money to make it work for somebody. Even then we might be looking at a second-or third-round pick. The Devils and another team could get creative and funnel Subban through a third team (looking at you Buffalo or Arizona) for even more retained salary.
The most logical landing spots
• Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, St. Louis Blues, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings
The teams that make sense here are contenders that could use some defense depth on the right side, will not need Subban to play a major role, and can shelter him into spots where he can play to his strengths.
Toronto might make some sense. St. Louis has needed some extra defense depth since the offseason. The Rangers are very top-heavy at forward and defense and could use depth all over the lineup.
The obvious problem here with some of these teams? Salary cap space.
The Devils are going to have to eat salary, while pretty much any contender outside of the Rangers might need to move salary or hide salary to make it work.
Are the Stars and Kings top-tier contenders? Probably not, but they look like solid playoff teams that could both also use a depth addition on the right side
Wild Card team: Boston Bruins
This would be pretty wild, but I could see a fit here. The Bruins could use some additional depth on defense, and after being on the other side of the Montreal-Boston rivalry for years it would be interesting to see Bruins cheering for Subban. They do already have Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo on the right side, so they do not have a huge pressing need, but Subban would be a pretty significant upgrade over Connor Clifton to round out the depth. Just a thought.
Spot I want to see just for fun: Nashville Predators
The Predators are clinging to a playoff spot in the Western Conference, are very thin on the right side of their defense, and have a ton of salary cap space to play with. Subban was a key part of the Predators during his brief time there, helping lead them to a Stanley Cup Final appearance and a Presidents’ Trophy.
NHL Trade Deadline prediction
Why not get creative here and say this looks like a multiple team trade scenario where New Jersey retains salary, a third team with salary cap to burn gets involved to retain more salary in exchange for an extra draft pick, which then sends Subban to a team like St. Louis or Toronto for some added depth. The Devils are most likely going to trade him, and this seems like the most logical path to create more options.