The Nashville Predators acquired P.K. Subban from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for Shea Weber on Wednesday in a blockbuster swap of All-Star defensemen two days before free agency opens.
Subban won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2013 and had six goals and 45 assists last season before suffering an injury. The offensive-minded, dynamic 27-year-old has 63 goals and 215 assists in 434 career games, all with the Canadiens.
He said he was not surprised by the trade because there had been so many rumors since he signed a $72 million, eight-year contract in the summer of 2014. Subban’s no-movement clause that would’ve allowed him to block any trade was set to kick in on Friday.
“With a lot of the chatter that kind of happened over the little while, I’m a firm believer that usually where there’s smoke there’s fire,” Subban said on a conference call. “Obviously it’s a little bit surreal but it happened.”
Subban was not always the favorite of coach Michel Therrien and others in the organization despite his playmaking ability. Still, Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said trading Subban was “one of the most difficult decisions” he has had to make.
“We completed today an important transaction which I am convinced will make the Canadiens a better team,” Bergevin said. “P.K. Subban is a special and very talented player. He provided the Canadiens organization with strong performances on the ice and generous commitment in the community,” including a $10 million donation to Montreal Children’s Hospital last year.
Nashville GM David Poile said the trade was first discussed at the draft last weekend in Buffalo. It was worth it for Poile giving up Weber for Subban.
“P.K. Subban is an elite offensive defenseman with tremendous skill and contagious energy that makes the Nashville Predators a better team now and into the future,” Poile said. “Superstar defensemen of his caliber are a rare commodity, and we are thrilled to add him to the organization.”
Weber, who turns 31 on Aug. 14, had been with Nashville since the start of his NHL career in 2005. He signed a $110 million, 14-year offer sheet with Philadelphia as a restricted free agent in 2012, but Nashville matched it to keep him.
The three-time Norris Trophy finalist was a team captain and had 20 goals and 31 assists last season.
“In Shea Weber, we get a top rated NHL defenseman with tremendous leadership, and a player who will improve our defensive group as well as our power play for many years to come,” Bergevin said. “He is a complete rearguard with impressive size and a powerful shot.”
Subban said he always felt wanted in the Montreal community after he was drafted in the second round in 2007. He stopped short of saying he felt unwanted by the Canadiens.
“I just feel good knowing that a team has moved someone to bring me in because they want me,” Subban said while on vacation in Paris. “Just happy to be in a situation where I can excel and feel good coming to the rink every day about myself, about the team, about my position. More importantly I just look forward to trying to win a Stanley Cup. That’s your ultimate goal and I feel that I got a whole lot closer to doing that today.”