The Pittsburgh Penguins aren’t the only team with star players in the trade rumor mill.
P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators had to talk about his status after the Preds’ recent first round playoff elimination. From the Tennessean:
Predators general manager David Poile didn’t mention Subban specifically when he said Wednesday that changes are ahead for a team that was ousted in the first round of the playoffs.
”We failed to meet our expectations and our fans’ expectations,” Poile said. “There are some issues to address. There will be some changes.”
“If I’m talking facts, I’m the highest paid player on the this team,” [Subban] said Wednesday. “With that comes responsibility. Just like everybody else, the responsibility is on me to take the fact that we didn’t win the first round; we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to accomplish.
”I hope I’m part of the solution. I hope I can be here and be a part of that. But at the same token, I’m prepared to understand that this organization deserves and demands the best, and they should.”
The media has gone a little further —
“I am 100% convinced,” Corey Hirsch said on a radio show, “that the Predators’ management will be trading the star defenceman after the postseason.”
Since Pittsburgh would definitely be at least considering the possibility of trading a star player, is there a fit here between these two former Stanley Cup Finals opponents both looking to shake the deck and get back to the promised land?
Phil Kessel has a 23-team no trade clause so scratch that off the list, unless Phil is willing to cooperate. Penguins’ management already knows Kessel doesn’t exactly cooperate when he doesn’t have to — and guess what — in this situation he doesn’t have to! If the Pens want to trade Kessel they’re going to have to trade him most likely to somewhere within their own division and for little return, and that’s just foolish in any real-life scenario.
The next natural spot to look to might be to include Kris Letang. A top right handed defenseman in exchange for another. But, then again Letang can list 18 teams he can’t be traded to, a better than 50% chance Nashville could be included here.
Even if that’s available though, why should the Pens trade their best defenseman here? Pittsburgh should flash some muscle in a negotiation with Nashville. Subban comes with a $9.0 million cap hit, and fairly or not, the perception of being somewhat difficult and flamboyant. A round peg of a hockey player who actually has a personality, which doesn’t always fit in hockey culture’s drab square hole. (See all the serious grown men getting so mad about a team celebrating wins at home in fun shows of joy that they can share with their fans).
If Nashville is desperate to move on from Subban, then that is going to have to weaken their position in the trade market. A weakened position leads to weakened returns (which is most the reason why the Pens shouldn’t be looking to trade players like Kessel and Letang for pennies on the dollar in the first place).
With that in mind, the Pens shouldn’t consider trading Letang for this, even if his NTC allows it. Just as if Pittsburgh is going to offer Letang out, other teams aren’t going to offer their #1 defenseman back, other teams aren’t going to give back a tremendous return, they’re going to piece something together.
So piece something together for Nashville.
Offer them Justin Schultz and Jack Johnson for P.K. Subban.
It accomplishes a lot for both teams. First, the money is almost totally even - Nashville would be sending $9.0m to Pittsburgh in this scenario and the Pens would be sending a total cap hit of $8.75m back.
Nashville’s motivation would be to shed Subban if they think he has an attitude or want to reset their lockeroom dynamic. Johnson can play third pair for them and bring his #grit and add all the locker-room intangibles that he supposedly brings to the table. Schultz as a right handed puck moving defenseman can join Roman Josi or Mattias Ekholm on a top-four role, and really will bring good value to what they’re looking to do. The Preds are a bit deeper as a result, but the main reason they would do this is assuming they’re just ready to move on from Subban.
For the Pens, this solves a lot of problems. You upgrade Schultz into Subban and also solve some contractual issues as well. Add Subban to a top-four of Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Olli Maatta and that’s ready to rock and roll. The third pair of Marcus Pettersson and Erik Gudbranson can also be retained. Pittsburgh is a little more top-heavy to take on another big contract, but that’s a problem solved by trading Johnson in the first place, so they can afford to be a little more top-heavy if it means loading up with what can be a premiere NHL defenseman.
If Nashville is so intent on moving on from Subban, that should be Pittsburgh’s stance. If the Preds can get a better offer somewhere else, all the best to them - go take it. But it’s tough to move a $9.0 million salary, especially when it comes with baggage (real or perceived, the perception is all that matters in this case). Subban’s trade value is less than his value on the ice. Pittsburgh should only swoop in if the Preds are so desperate to drop Subban for what most likely would be a foolish reason, and that means a lesser return more on Pittsburgh’s terms.