0 of 6
The NHL season is fast approaching, and with training camps
set to open in a few weeks, there are still a few big-name free agents still
available. After Phil Kessel signed with the Vegas Golden Knights last week, none
of the remaining free agents has the kind of star profile of P.K. Subban.
At 33 years old, Subban is headed into his 13th
season and is coming off a three-year stint with the New Jersey Devils, which saw
two of his worst point-production seasons as well as lower-than-average
possession stats at 5-on-5.
Last season, his CorsiFor percentage was fifth on
the Devils among defensemen, but his expected goals percentage was second-best
with the D corps. At one point in his career, Subban was a key figure on the
power play, but that’s evaporated the past two years. Considering the Devils
were a lottery team, it’s a bit more damning than it seems.
Subban is still out there in search of an opportunity with
another team, and at this point, you’ve got to think looking for a team in
pursuit of a Stanley Cup would get priority. Then again, a healthy dose of ice time
and the opportunity to show he’s still got it could be just as appealing. But
which places make sense for the 2013 Norris Trophy Winner? Let’s look around
1 of 6
Patrice Bergeron shadows P.K. Subban (Photo: Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
We know what you’re thinking: “Why would Subban want to play
for the team he reveled in torturing during his time with the Montréal
Canadiens?” The answer is easy: There’s opportunity to be had.
The Bruins had a laundry list of defensemen who had surgery
in the offseason who most likely will not be available to play when the season
opens in October. Charlie McAvoy (shoulder) may not be ready until December, Matt
Grzelcyk (shoulder) is likely out until November, while Mike Reilly (ankle) and Jakub Zboril (knee) may be back in time for training camp.
Playing without McAvoy for two months is rough because he’s
a Norris-caliber defenseman. Grzelcyk is one of their better puck handlers and has
a solid all-around game in which his offensive abilities are his strong point. McAvoy
is a righty shot and patrols the right side of the defense. Coincidentally, that’s
also where Subban plays. Finding someone to replace McAvoy is an
impossibility. There just won’t be anyone good enough.
But the Bruins lack blue line depth, and if they’re in need of
a puck mover who can help in their time of need, asking Subban to pinch hit and
provide depth couldn’t hurt. New coach
Jim Montgomery also brings a style of hockey that demands strong defensive play, which could help reduce some of Subban’s more aggressive tendencies.
2 of 6
P.K. Subban gets a rough ride from William Carrier (Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
There’s no brighter city than Las Vegas, and there’s no NHL
player who embraces the limelight like P.K. Subban. There’s also the fact that
the Golden Knights could stand to use some depth all throughout their defensive
Vegas owner Bill Foley has been all about winning and
bringing the height of sports entertainment to the Strip. Through five seasons, he’s been able to do that…until last season, however. Vegas missing the
playoffs became a huge point of consternation for the team’s management, and that it is fairly cap-strapped makes it difficult to fix up the roster. Of course,
it has found ways around that. With Robin Lehner being out for the year as well as
adding an injured Shea Weber’s contract, Vegas has plenty of LTIR spending
ahead to take care of things. So why not add some experience to the blue line
by adding Subban?
Vegas has six defensemen squared away, and with elite players
like Alex Pietrangelo and Shea Theodore to go with solid support from Alec
Martinez, Brayden McNabb, and Zach Whitecloud the Golden Knights are in good shape. Ben Hutton
and Nicolas Hague should round out their NHL setup, but Vegas can always use a
little more help. Asking Subban to lean into his strengths of carrying the puck
and contributing to the offense could give the Knights’ attack a jolt.
personality is a natural fit for the aura of Las Vegas, too. There are some
cities in the NHL that get a boost when personalities play there, and Vegas is
one of them. It could use a little bit of juice right now.
3 of 6
P.K. teaming up with Anthony Duclair could make the Panthers even more exciting (Photo: Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
One team in the NHL with a lot of pressure on them this
season is the Florida Panthers. They won the Presidents’ Trophy last season
with 122 points but didn’t retain interim coach Andrew Brunette, choosing instead
to hire Paul Maurice. They made a blockbuster trade with Calgary to acquire
Matthew Tkachuk. The Panthers mean business, but their defense lacks depth.
Subban could be the kind of guy to help them in a bind.
Florida isn’t truly lacking in any area, and its defense,
particularly on the right side (Aaron Ekblad, Brandon Montour, Radko Gudas), is
hardy. The left side is a bit youthful, albeit with some experience
(Marc Staal aside). If there’s something that’s true of any championship team
it’s that no position is taken for granted and an injury or two can’t
The idea of Subban in South Florida on the third
pairing—and perhaps not playing much, either—may not appeal to him. That said,
being on a team that’s an immediate Stanley Cup contender and just happens to
have proximity to Miami Beach could be attractive enough to be OK with a diminished
4 of 6
Juho Lammikko won’t have to catch P.K. Subban if they’re teammates (Photo: Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Canucks are always in need of something to keep
things lively. This summer has been loaded with “will they, won’t they” debates
about trading impending UFA forward J.T. Miller, as well as wondering what,
exactly, the direction the franchise is headed in. It hasn’t been a summer filled
with happy talk, that’s for sure, but there’s also the part about how they
haven’t done much all summer to fix up the roster.
Vancouver has a lot of holes, and its depth is suspect at
all positions, particularly along the blue line. It has name quality with Quinn Hughes, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers, but with Luke Schenn
and Travis Dermott, it needs more. It could get a boost on the back line from
youngsters like Jack Rathbone or even Jett Woo, but they are both green.
We know the NHL group isn’t exactly swimming in defensive
prowess and that Subban’s defensive game has gotten weaker the past few
seasons, but with Bruce Boudreau behind the bench, he’s capable of getting the
best out of players—especially those who like to push the pace and play with
the puck. That sounds like a great place for Subban to work. Boudreau is a bit of
a whisperer when it comes to reaching his players, and if Subban’s got more to
prove, Bruce can show him where it is.
5 of 6
P.K. Subban could be Zach Werenski’s defense partner rather than his rival if he goes to Columbus (Photo: Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Blue Jackets are on a roll this offseason. They signed
Johnny Gaudreau out of Calgary and got Patrik Laine taken care of on a
four-year, $38 million contract. They’re exciting players in a market that
could use more excitement, and who better than P.K. Subban to do it?
The Blue Jackets’ seeming explosiveness up front is countered
by how mysterious their defense looks. Zach Werenski is the main man. They
signed Erik Gudbranson to a four-year $16 million contract to give them a
physical force. Vladislav Gavrikov has been a solid two-way defender who’s
developed into a steady minutes-eater the past couple seasons. Younger guys
like Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean are still proving themselves at the NHL level, and beyond them, their depth gets a bit cloudy.
Adding Subban to the mix would give them an experienced
player, obviously, but also someone for Boqvist and Bean to learn from when it
comes to puck carrying and pushing the pace on offense. Subban would also add
another veteran voice in the group to go with Jakub Voracek and Gustav Nyquist (both
are 33). Columbus surprised a bit last season with its performance, particularly when it was believed things would get a bit ugly. The Jackets are
riding high with the vibes, and if there’s a player who exemplifies what “vibes”
means, it’s P.K.
6 of 6
Being gone a long time means a reunion would make a lot of people happy…if it came to pass. (Photo: Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
Always fun to end with a bang, right? The relationship between Subban and the Habs at the time he
was traded to Nashville for Shea Weber was one of the most awkward ones to play
out in public. Subban was a bigger-than-life figure in Montréal and a man of
the people because he donated so much money to Montréal Children’s Hospital. He
also made Habs executives eat crow when they signed him to a bridge deal at the
peak of his abilities, which essentially made him prove he deserved a long-term
deal. He did that by winning the Norris Trophy, and things were never the
same after then. GM Marc Bergevin signed him to an eight-year, $72 million
Bergevin is gone, Weber’s career is over with his rights
dealt to Vegas, and Carey Price’s future is on the brink. To say things are
different from the last time Subban wore the “bleu, blanc et rouge” is a
vast understatement. The Canadiens are, on paper, set to be one of the worst
teams in the NHL, but with Martin St. Louis as coach, there’s hope on the horizon. But they could stand to make people feel better and perhaps mend some fences
while also giving their defensive corps some veteran support.
Three or four spots are essentially spoken for
on the Canadiens defense, with Mike Matheson, Joel Edmundson, David Savard and
Chris Wideman locked in. Youngsters Justin Barron, Jordan Harris and Kaiden
Guhle may factor into the mix, but throwing a pile of young players into what
will be a tough season on defense may not be overly appealing. Bringing Subban
back as a third-pairing player and welcoming him back with warmness could go a
long way to providing some smiles on what may be a down season.