Goodbye, Subban: Wild 23 minutes of hockey trades to trigger years of debate

The deals took days to complete — months in the case of Steven Stamkos — but the massive moves that involved Stamkos, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber, Taylor Hall and Adam Larsson on a wild Wednesday were announced within 23 minutes of each other.

It’s likely the transactions will be debated for years.

Did the Montreal Canadiens do the right thing in shipping out the dynamic Subban to the Nashville Predators for the hard-shooting, minute-munching Weber?

Did the Edmonton Oilers receive enough in return in trading Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for the budding Swedish defenceman Larsson?

Stamkos’s decision to stay with the Tampa Bay Lighting for an eight-year deal worth $68 million US was not as controversial. Surely the fan bases in Buffalo, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and New York — both the Rangers and Islanders — are disappointed.

And sure, Stamkos left millions of dollars in salary and endorsements on the table to stay in Tampa Bay. But you can’t blame the 26-year-old for wanting to stay and play for a winner. Tampa Bay was a contender for the Stanley Cup the past two years.

Plenty of top players — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews — have taken less in the frustrating world of salary caps so their respective teams had room to build around them.

Oilers rebuild looks never-ending

Hall, drafted first overall in 2010, was supposed to be the start of the rebuild for the Oilers. But here we are six years later and Edmonton’s decade-long run of missing the playoffs currently is the longest in the league.

Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli now has traded the top two picks from that 2010 draft. When at the helm of the Boston Bruins, he dealt Tyler Seguin to the Dallas Stars a few weeks after the Bruins had lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. And now Hall has been moved.


Taylor Hall was supposed to be a centrepiece of the Edmonton Oilers’ rebuild. That ended Wednesday with a trade to the New Jersey Devils. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hall isn’t happy about the trade. He is taking it personally because he wanted to be in Edmonton when they finally played some meaningful hockey in April. He had finally developed some chemistry with young Oilers star Connor McDavid at Canada’s gold-medal win at the world championship in May, after McDavid had missed 37 games in the regular season with a broken collarbone.

The Oilers obviously have too many forwards, with draft pick Jesse Puljujarvi ready for the NHL and maybe they feel close to adding unrestricted free-agent Milan Lucic on Friday. But I’m not convinced Larsson was fair return for Hall.

There is no doubt Edmonton has a need to improve the quality of their blue line. But did they have to give up Hall? Again, we will watch how this trade unfolds for seasons to come.

Ditto for Subban and Weber. While most clubs in the NHL are trying to improve team speed, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin traded away a speedy talent and a risk-taker in favour of the safer Weber.

I don’t blame the Habs faithful for their unpleasantness. The team has a history of making bad trades for their defencemen, whether it was Chris Chelios to the Chicago Blackhawks for Denis Savard in 1990, or Eric Desjardins, along with John LeClair and Gilbert Dionne, to the Philadelphia Flyers for Mark Recchi in 1995, or Ryan McDonagh with Chris Higgins, Pavel Valentenko and Doug Janik to the New York Rangers for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto in 2009.

Weber has 10 years left on deal

The 27-year-old Subban is four years younger than Weber, who will turn 31 on Aug. 14, but Subban’s game is on the rise. Weber still is one of the game’s most feared defenceman with his hard shot and his physical capabilities, but how many good seasons does he have left?

The Canadiens also save a bit in annual salary. Subban has six more years at $9 million US a season remaining on his deal. Weber’s average salary is $7.857 million US, but he has another 10 years left on his deal.


Shea Weber carries a deadly shot and a strong physical presence, but his contract is onerous. (Mark Humphrey/The Associated Press)

While most of Subban’s outings are must-see games, it’s worth noting that most members of the management team and coaching staff for the 2014 Olympics and the World Cup team in September have Weber among their top four, while Subban had minimal playing time in Sochi and wasn’t named to the Canadian World Cup entry.

Even though Bergevin said last Thursday that he wasn’t actively shopping Subban, enough teams out there knew that wasn’t the case. That’s why Predators GM David Poile dropped the name of Weber to Bergevin last Friday and a few days later a deal was struck.

Bergevin denied the reason for the deal was Subban’s unpopular standing with his Montreal teammates and head coach Michel Therrien. But Subban did not agree.

“I’ve always felt wanted by the fans and the community there,” Subban said from Paris. “On the business side of things, the Montreal Canadiens paid me a lot of money two years ago to do what I do for a living. At the end of the day, I just wanted to come in and do my job. But obviously right now, I’m going to a team that wants me. The Montreal Canadiens felt that they had to take it down a different path.”

A path that will be closely scrutinized for years.

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