P.K. Subban Could Be Outside-the-Box Answer to Devils Defensive Woes

P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
P.K. Subban #76 of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The New Jersey Devils have had some issues on defense, especially on the third line. Luke Hughes is doing fine, but his partner Brendan Smith might be having the worst season on the team. Three players on the team have below 50% CF% (basically saying they’ve been on the ice for more chances against than chances for). Only Dawson Mercer and Alex Holtz have worse numbers at 5v5 on chances alone. Both of those players are positive when it comes to high-danger chances. Meanwhile, Smith is hitting 41 percent at HDCF%.

Many are wondering if the Devils could actually rectify this situation. Colin Miller is injured, and he didn’t look very good in when paired with Luke Hughes in the preseason. Cal Foote was called up from the Utica Comets, but he hasn’t been given an opportunity. Simon Nemec is a former second-overall pick, but he needs some more seasoning before he’s ready for the big show.

With the situation at hand, many are wondering if there’s a player that’s currently available that can help the Devils. They are Stanley Cup contenders, so free agents will look at them fondly. We covered how the Devils could seek help in the middle of the season. Many know about Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Jesse Puljujarvi are the big names being mentioned.

On defense, the only real name out there is Ethan Bear. He would make a lot of sense, but he’s not available until December. Also, he’s coming off a major injury. It’s hard to say what he will be. Jordie Benn is another interesting name after he couldn’t cut it on the Dallas Stars roster.

What if the Devils called a familiar name? This is one of those thoughts that might be best ignoring, but we’re going with it anyway. P.K. Subban has been the Devils biggest and best cheerleader. What if he’s doing that with the intention to impress his former bosses?

There are many reasons why this doesn’t work. First and foremost, Subban is under contract with ESPN. There are times when those contracts have professional outs, but it’s hard to believe ESPN would do that with the recently retired Subban.

Oh, there’s also that. Subban retired more than a year ago. He didn’t play hockey for anyone last season. Is he in shape? It’s hard to convince yourself that he would be. However, an elite athlete who works out like Subban might stay in shape just for the heck of it.

Also, Subban wasn’t great for the Devils. He looked a step slow, and he was struggling to keep up at times. He was brought in to be the answer, but he just never knew the right questions. He was no longer a number-one, or even a number-two defenseman with how he was playing.

That’s the thing; the Devils don’t need that. They already have Dougie Hamilton and John Marino on the right side. They need someone to play 12 minutes with Luke Hughes on a nightly basis. Can Subban still do that? How long would he need to get back to that?

Would we rather have Subban teaching and guiding Hughes through his first full season, or would we rather have Smith there? Smith is better at the locker room aspect of the game. He has a function on this team. However, the mistakes are starting to weigh on the team in the standings. He provides more than just stats, but he plays nothing like Hughes. He can’t really relate to Luke Hughes, but Subban can. That might help him make better decisions on the ice.

Looking at Subban’s last season in the NHL, his numbers were better than he was given credit for. Despite playing in front of the likes of Andrew Hammond, Jon Gillies, and Mackenzie Blackwood, Subban still had a positive Corsi Percentage. The Devils also had 55% of the high-danger chances when he was on the ice.

His numbers were better than Damon Severson, Ryan Graves, and Ty Smith. Subban was a serviceable defenseman. The reason he was serviceable was because he was put in a position to succeed, the third pairing. That’s exactly where he’d be in 2023-24.

We forget Subban is just 34 years old. He still has plenty of gas left in the tank if he wants to keep going. He’s had a full year to rest his back, which might have contributed to his issues with the Devils. He might be even better than he was in his last year in New Jersey.

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This is a pipe dream at best. Subban would need weeks to get into NHL shape. The Devils have just under $1 million in cap space according to CapFriendly. Subban likely doesn’t leave his cozy chair in Connecticut for less than seven figures. We’re sure someone offered him a tryout or minimum contract. If that didn’t move the needle last season, would it really move the needle now?

All we’re saying is it’s worth the phone call to Subban’s agent. The on-ice product is better than we remember. His work off the ice makes him a great ambassador for the Devils as his team gains more of the spotlight. It’s a move that would have to go through the team, but it’s a move worth discussing.