The Montreal Canadiens actually won the much-maligned P.K. Subban for Shea Weber trade, and it won’t take long for everyone to realize it.
In a one-for-one flip that stunned the hockey world just days prior to July first, the Canadiens shipped the speedy, exciting, and polarizing Defenceman to Nashville in exchange for the consistency, work ethic, and leadership of the Predators Captain.
The deal makes the Canadiens a better team right now. General Manager Marc Bergevin deserves a ton of credit for being able to acquire a world-class defenceman in return for their 2007 second-rounder, while making it all happen just two days before a full no-movement clause kicked in to Subban’s contract, which would have made him virtually un-moveable.
Habs fans were visibly distraught by the departure of their beloved superstar, and the majority of analysts and hockey pundits were much-to-quick to score the trade as a “steal” for David Poile and the Nashville Predators. Many went as far as calling it one of the worst trades in Canadiens history, which is not only a little short-sighted, it’s obscenely ridiculous and actually quite the opposite of reality.
Shea Weber is an absolute horse on the back-end, and has been for close to 10 years. A top-five NHL defenceman who bleeds consistency on both sides of the puck, with a big physical presence and an even bigger shot, Weber does not get the hype or publicity he deserves due to playing in the hockey-not market of Tennessee for the entirety of his career.
Their woeful ability to score goals has been the number one hurdle impeding the Canadiens for what seems like forever. Over the past three seasons, the Habs have not ranked higher than 16th in average goals per game, twice finishing in the bottom 10. Their ineptitude in the offensive zone was only rivalled by the inability of management to acquire scoring help through trades or free agency.
With the best goalie on the planet set to return this season, Montreal’s brass realized that their path to success needed to take a turn towards the defensive direction, and stabilizing the back end in front of Carey Price with a stud, number one defenceman became top priority. The value of a franchise-changing goaltender like Carey Price cannot be stated enough, and pairing him with the consistently physical, aware, and defensively superb Weber gives the Canadiens arguably the top goaltender-defenceman combination in the entire NHL.
The intangibles and leadership qualities of Weber cannot be undervalued, as many in the analytics community love to do. He has been Nashville’s captain since 2010 and their unequivocal leader on the ice and in the room, both by words and example. Weber was an assistant captain on Canada’s Men’s Olympic team’s that won gold in 2010 and 2014 (alongside Carey Price), and was given an “A” by the Canadiens before playing a single game for the franchise.
With rumours swirling over the past few seasons of Subban’s inability to mesh with coach Michel Therrien and certain teammates along the way, the stability that Weber will bring to the organization and the dressing room and on the ice will be invaluable to a market as chaotic and downright crazy as Montreal. You can’t quantify leadership, but you sure can qualify its importance when you watch the teams that win year after year.
There is no doubt that Weber is a much more consistent and downright better defensive player than Subban, but he is actually a better offensive player, too. Despite not owning the speed, flash, and puck-possession analytics that P.K. possesses, Weber has maybe the most lethal point shot in the league and in an underrated play-maker.
He has averaged 19 goals and 51 points over the past 3 seasons while averaging 78 games played. Compare that to Subban’s “incredible” offensive numbers over the same three-year span of 10.3 goals and 55 points, you start to notice just how gifted offensively Shea Weber is.
Subban is four years younger than Weber, and has five years remaining on his contract at a $9-million cap hit. Weber will cost the Habs $7.8-million against the cap, all the way until 2021 when he will be 40. The massive contract of Weber will actually save the Canadiens over $1-million per season against the cap, for a guy who, when you compare him to similar players historically, most likely has five or six seasons of elite play left in him.
The back-end of that contract may not look great if his play starts tailing off after age 35, however there are several other factors, such as revenues, salary cap numbers, and the overall style of play in the NHL that will determine whether or not the contract will be viewed as a good one or not in six years time.
The Canadiens have the rare, once in a generation type goaltending to go for it right now. When you subtract Subban and add Shea Weber to Price’s right side, they suddenly have the identity they have been lacking for over a decade.
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