P.K. Subban (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Defenseman P.K. Subban's name has come up in trade speculation lately and that speculation intensified in Buffalo on Friday when Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin acknowledged he has received calls about Subban.
BUFFALO – If you thought Dougie Hamilton getting traded at the draft last year was a monumental event, how would you react if P.K. Subban were moved by the Montreal Canadiens? That is not to say it will happen at the draft tomorrow, or ever, but if you’re a ‘Where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ kind of person, you’d have to think this story is getting some serious legs.
Because there’s smoke. Lots of it. Like more than there is when all the kids decide to hotbox after the prom. There has been chatter for sometime about the possibility of Subban getting dealt, and Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning did nothing to quell the wildfire when he told Matt Sekeres and Blake Price of TSN 1040 in Vancouver when asked whether he has called Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin about Subban, “Yeah. I think there’s a lot of teams that have reached out to find out what it would take to try to complete a deal of that magnitude. We’ve been one of the teams that have talked to them, but we haven’t gone down the path to make belief that’s something that’s going to be real or not.”
Bergevin was bombarded by reporters after the GM meetings in Buffalo Friday, largely because of Benning’s comments. “I’m taking calls. When a GM calls me, I don’t know what he’s calling me about, so I answer the phone,” Bergevin said. “Yes, I’ve received calls on P.K., but I’m not shopping him. I’m not shopping P.K. Subban, I can tell you that.”
Perhaps it’s a case of Benning being just a little too honest. And we can’t imagine Bergevin was thrilled to hear that come from Benning. Nor could he have been happy when Benning expanded on his comments by saying, “We’ve done our due diligence like we do with all players we hear their names are out there.”
Well, now, isn’t that interesting? So now Subban’s name is out there. Who’s putting it out there? Has this become some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy? For his part, Bergevin acknowledged he has taken calls on Subban, but is not shopping him. He said the conversations with other GMs have been short and when asked what it would take to pry Subban away from him, he replied by saying, “God, I don’t even want to go there.”
But as you would expect, Bergevin fell short of saying that he would unequivocally not trade Subban, saying later “if someone offered me half their team you’ve got to make it work.”
There are a number of things fuelling all this and some of it has to do with the NHL awards. First, despite the fact Subban has committed to raising $10 million over seven years for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, his teammates elected to choose captain Max Pacioretty as the team’s nominee for the King Clancy Award. (In Pacioretty’s defense, he teamed up with the Montreal General Hospital Foundation to establish the Max Pacioretty Foundation to support the traumatic brain injury project and raise $3.5 million to help purchase a high performance MRI machine for the hospital.
Whatever the case, there seems to be the sense that there is a disconnect between the Canadiens and their star defenseman in terms of Subban’s exposure off the ice. Bergevin was a seventh defenseman who was wildly popular with his teammates and, while having a notorious sense of humor, seemed to know his place when it came to bringing attention to himself. Subban, meanwhile, is larger than life, and attention seems to find him. Remember, this is the organization that three years ago put an abrupt end to the “Triple Low 5” post-game celebration between Subban and Carey Price because it was seen as too individualistic.
There simply seems to be a sense that the relationship between Subban and his employers has been a tenuous one. Subban is entering the third year of an eight-year deal worth $72 million, with a no-trade clause that kicks in July 1. And if you’re in the mood for even more of a conspiracy theory, consider that this coming season Subban is scheduled to make $11 million – including a $2 million signing bonus that also must be paid July 1 – the first of four seasons in which he’ll earn at least $10 million. So if you’re going to deal him, it makes sense to do so sooner rather than later.
Bergevin said he has no problem with Subban on or off the ice and maintains that displaying a little personality once in a while is not a bad thing. “Personally, we’ve never said anything about P.K.,” Bergevin said. “He’s a different person. Off the ice, he’s busy, but he performs, he works, he’s on time, he does all the right things…he’s great in the community. He doesn’t do anything bad off ice. No issues with what he does. He wears clothes probably that are closest to mine. His have more color, that’s it.
“We want players to be themselves. They’re not robots.”
Another thing driving all this is the fact the Canadiens are picking ninth in the draft and the Edmonton Oilers are picking fourth. The Oilers badly, badly need a franchise defenseman and are picking fourth. What if a package presents itself where the Canadiens could move Subban to Edmonton, then move up to fourth in the draft and take Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has the potential to be the Francophone scoring star the franchise has lacked for decades. Dubois grew up in Ste-Agathe, which is about 60 miles from Montreal. And if you're going to take advantage of the fact he doesn't have a no-trade clause until July 1, a deal with the Oilers would have to be done by then.
And so it continues. Even though Bergevin is playing this down, these things don’t simply vaporize out of thin air. That doesn’t mean Subban will be traded, but it should make the next week, and specifically the draft floor, very interesting.