After Dougie Hamilton Signing, How Should New Jersey Devils Deal With P.K. Subban?

New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (76): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban (76): (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

The New Jersey Devils made splash after splash this offseason, but no bigger was when they announced a seven-year deal for right-handed defenseman Dougie Hamilton. Hamilton solidifies a Devils defense that hasn’t been good since they made a run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. A combination of their best players getting old, some really bad draft picks, a few bad trades, and an inability to bring top players here in free agency led to the Devils defense playing the role of a turnstile. Now, the Devils have great depth on defense.

The right side of the Devils defense is as good one through three as any team in the league. Hamilton will be the top player, and he’s one of the better defenders in the league. Damon Severson is a great second-line player. Fans get frustrated with his mistakes, but it’s clear he’s trying to do too much. Now, he can focus on his role and become a great player.

Then, there’s P.K. Subban. It clearly makes sense for Subban to play on the third line. He could play about 15-17 minutes a night, while also playing on special teams. The Devils struggled on the power play last season, and it seemed like Alain Nasreddine’s strategy was to play the entire unit around Subban’s shot. It didn’t work, but with Hamilton and Ty Smith able to take the major roles as defensemen on the power play, Subban can be seen as a weapon instead of a focal point.

On the penalty kill, Subban was once one of the best in the league. He always had good partners, though. He can get up to greatness, but he hasn’t been able to build it in New Jersey. If the Devils pair him with, say, Ryan Graves on the PK, they could be a much better unit. It’s not hard to be better than what the Devils were last year, so they can only go up. The penalty kill was in the bottom five in the history of the league. The Devils allowed a goal on basically 30 percent of all penalties.

Subban can focus on what he’s good at now. Like Severson, pushing him down the lineup will only help him. He doesn’t have to be the 23-minute-per-night workhorse like he was before. Now, he can focus on big players while also trying to avoid major mistakes. Last year, Subban had to be a little of everything. He played north of 22 minutes per game. He was mainly on the Devils second line, but when Severson started to struggle he once again took top-line minutes.

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Subban is the Devils’ other $9 million man, but he is in the final year of his contract. As a right-handed defenseman, a good season could lead to a really big payday. It won’t be with the Devils, but Subban is motivated to crush it this season. He could be a really good weapon. That’s the difference between the last two seasons and this season. Subban was needed to do a little bit of everything, which made his strengths worse. This season, he can focus on those strengths and it could lead to a really good statistical season from Subban.