New Jersey Devils: P.K. Subban Still Somehow Has Value Nationally

The New Jersey Devils arrived on the scene during the 2019 NHL Draft. They drafted Jack Hughes first overall and traded peanuts for P.K. Subban in consecutive days. Then-general manager Ray Shero went on every radio show and podcast that would have him, touting the move as the final piece to ending the Devils’ long road of rebuilding.

It’s pretty clear how it has worked out so far. While the pieces the Devils sent to the Nashville Predators aren’t exactly giving us FOMO (Jeremy Davies has been fine in the AHL, but he’s already 24 years old. Steven Santini can’t make the NHL roster. Bobby Brink hurts because the Preds traded that pick to the Philadelphia Flyers, and now one of the team’s top-five prospects.), but Subban has not been the game-changing defenseman the fans were promised he would be.

There are multiple reasons for that, but most among them are it seems like his back injuries took away some of his agility. That was his bread and butter. He always made mistakes, but he made so many more great plays that no other defenseman can make. Subban was truly special in his prime.

Teams apparently might covet P.K. Subban at the Trade Deadline.

He can’t make those plays anymore. He clearly gained a ton of muscle so he can survive an NHL season, but that made him just a big statue last season. This year, he came into camp looking closer to his normal size, and he looked better off the top of the season. Then, the COVID pause threw him off completely. Subban was not one of the 17 players who ended up on the COVID protocol list, but the pause was bad for him nonetheless.

Before the pause, Subban only had a CF% below 50 twice in nine games. Where things have been really bad since the team’s return is in high-danger chances. Subban has been on the ice for 34 high-danger chances against since February 16th. His line has only created 16 high-danger chances. That’s at 5v5. When looking at the penalty kill, it’s a blood bath. (Thanks to Natural Stat Trick for the information.)

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This is what makes it so surprising that a recent article from Scott Burnside of The Athletic spoke to a Devils’ source who says Subban is one of the veterans available at the trade deadline. That probably obvious since Subban has not played well and Tom Fitzgerald inherited him from the Shero regime (although, he was a part of that).

The question isn’t if the Devils would trade him, it’s who would want him. Apparently, Burnside thinks there would be a market for the 31-year-old defenseman.

“(Tom) Fitzgerald inherited Subban, who still has the kinds of qualities that should be attractive to contending teams.” — Burnside in his latest piece for The Athletic

He brought up the Boston Bruins specifically and said the Devils could eat some salary to make it work. Sure. The Devils could easily eat $4.5 million next season to make the deal work. That would also make Subban a lot easier to swallow for a contending team. He’s probably worth the risk at under $5 million. He’s definitely not worth it at $9 million.

The Devils aren’t afraid to eat money in trades. They did it in the Taylor Hall and Wayne Simmonds trades last season. If it gets them pieces that are somewhat worthwhile, then go for it. If Fitzgerald gets a 3rd-round pick for Subban, some will lift him up as a Greek God. If he can somehow recover the 2nd-round pick the Devils still owe to the Predators, then he might be.

Subban isn’t as bad as some in the fanbase think, but he also hasn’t been good either. He brings something to the roster, a lot of which doesn’t show up on stat sheets (he’s been incredible at holding the offensive zone this season, for example), but moving on might be in the Devils’ best interest. The team has other defensemen they could give a shot, or they could take back players like Dakota Mermis or Connor Carrick like they did in previous deadlines to fill the void.

The one reason the Devils might be looking to keep Subban is the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. He’s someone who easily helps them get to the cap floor (although, that might not be a problem), he has a huge personality that can sell tickets, and there’s the possibility he still has something left and the Devils just wasn’t the right fit. Then, the Devils get out of the $9 million contract, and they don’t have to make hard decisions about protecting Yegor Sharangovich, Nathan Bastian, or Michael McLeod, all of which are surprisingly available in the expansion draft.