Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily news bulletin, covering all the latest news and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the content you need in your lives.
Is P.K. Subban still looked upon as an elite defenseman in the National Hockey League? Could he still help a contender? Those are the questions we are going to look at and try to answer on today’s Inside The Box, particularly the latter question.
Subban is one of the most talked about players in the entire NHL given his eccentric personality and significant marketability, which isn’t a bad thing by the way, and the fact that he is a very, very good hockey player, backed up by the fact that he won the Norris Trophy in 2012-13 coupled with his three All-Star Game appearances.
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However, his play has regressed somewhat ever since he was traded to the New Jersey Devils by the Nashville Predators in what was a blockbuster deal during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The defenseman hasn’t quite lived up to his lofty reputation in The Garden State, although some of that can be attributed to the fact that he is playing on a rebuilding team.
He was a -21 with just 18 points (7 G, 11 A) in 68 games for the Devils in 2019-20, logging 22:07 of ATOI, blocking 90 shots, recording 88 hits and 19 takeaways while having 65 Giveaways to his name. Subban also ranked low in a number of possession metrics and he had an Expected Goals Against of 5.1, which isn’t great.
Subban is also off to a sluggish start this year with three points (0 G, 3 A) in nine games with a -5 rating in an average of 24:03 of total ice time, although the Devils have been inactive for 14 days after being hit with a COVID-19 outbreak. But, the point we’re trying to make here is that the shine has come off what was once regarded as one of the most talented offensive blueliners in the NHL, so would he still be an attractive Trade Deadline target for contending teams?
Is P.K. Subban still an attractive prize for contenders at the Trade Deadline?
The first thing we have to make clear here is that P.K. Subban has a hefty cap hit of $9 million through the 2021-22 season, and that is a lot of money for any team to take on, especially in a post COVID-19 world where the entire league has to deal with a flat cap for at least the next couple of years.
As a result, any team potentially interested in trading for Subban would likely ask for a sweetener in return and / or want the Devils to retain a considerable chunk of that $9 million salary, which they could do given that they have the cap flexibility to do so, but whether they would want to considering the unspectacular return they would likely get back is another matter entirely.
Anyway, for the sake of this piece, let’s just pretend that there is a contender out there that would be seriously interested in acquiring Subban in order to add that final piece needed to embark on a deep postseason run and make a serious run at winning the Stanley Cup. Would the veteran help and would he be considered a valuable trade chip?
Well, in answer to the first question, while he has seen a dramatic dip in his play over the last year or so, Subban is still only 31-years-old and he has shown flashes of his elite talent while with the Devils to suggest that there is plenty left in the tank. Plus, only a few years removed from a 59 point season (16 G, 43 A) in 2017-18, you would have to think that the right-shot could get back to somewhat close to near the peak of his powers on a better team in a better situation with better players around him.
After all, he boasts outstanding ability when it comes to moving the puck, he can greatly help the transition game, he’s a fantastic skater and he also boasts a huge booming shot that can be a potent weapon at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.
Therefore, he could slot in to the top-four on most contending teams and make a sizeable impact, providing a real offensive punch and we know that we can play a physical game too. Subban would represent good value for most teams looking for that final piece if they can put him in the right situation and providing they could get the Devils to retain some salary. And, again, given that latter fact, it isn’t like an interested buyer would have to give up the farm in order to acquire the blueliner.
Is P.K. Subban a valuable trade chip for the New Jersey Devils, though? As we’ve already mentioned a couple of times, they would more than likely have to retain a chunk of his $9 million AAV and, with his value hardly off the floor at the moment, the front office would probably get nothing more than a couple of average prospects and maybe a Third-Round pick for what was an elite defenseman not that long ago. Plus, if they were that desperate to offload that salary, they could just leave Subban unprotected in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and hope that the Seattle Kraken take him as one of their faces of the franchise.
So, as far as the New Jersey Devils are concerned, P.K. Subban isn’t really a valuable trade chip anymore, and he’s probably not any more valuable to a contender unless they can get the Devils to retain some salary and if the asking price is low when it comes to the return. As a result, it is likely that the former Norris Trophy winner will still be in The Garden State come the passing of the NHL Trade Deadline on April 12, but stranger things have happened and you can bet that his name will at least come up in rumors if nothing else.
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