P.K. Subban for Shea Weber; Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson; Steven Stamkos stays: Breaking down “the craziest hour in hockey” we’ve ever seen

By Hunter Crowther (@HunterCrowther)

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

(Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 will forever be known as the day the National Hockey League landscape changed in less than an hour.

Four franchise players were dealt in two of the most complex, yet simple trades in modern history, while one superstar decided to stay right where he was.

Let’s review.

Early in the afternoon, multiple reports indicated the Edmonton Oilers were on the verge of trading winger Taylor Hall. Once it was known he was going to the New Jersey Devils, Sportsnet’s Gene Principe confirmed it was straight up for defenseman Adam Larsson.

Then just before 4:00 p.m. EST, Sportsnet’s Nick Kyperos dropped this on Twitter…

A few minutes later…

The Montreal Canadiens dealt superstar defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for former captain Shea Weber.

But while most were catching up to the news, TSN’s Bob McKenzie casually threw this out…

The best and youngest player the July 1 free agency signing day had to offer in, well, perhaps ever, didn’t even make it, rather deciding home (and no, not in the literal sense) was where the heart is. Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

To quote the legendary broadcaster Bob Cole: “EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING!!!”

Before we break down the two trades and extension, a few things while observing the madness:

  • I was on the bus home from work refreshing Twitter while this was all happened. I was losing it with headphones in. Strangers were staring at me as if I had lost my mind.
  • Hockey Twitter is usually on top of its game immediately after a major trade, signing, hiring or firing (and not in that order) — but there is zero precedent for today.
    • Type in “Habs” or “Oilers” in the Twitter search bar. You’re welcome.
  • Tried to call my buddy Pierce O’Leary (Habs fan, UFC and college football expert) after the Subban news broke. He was napping. Texted me an hour later: “Take a nap and wake up to my generation’s version of the Chris Chelios trade.”
    • in case you don’t know, the Habs traded Chelios — juuuuuust before his prime — to the Chicago Blackhawks, along with a 2nd round pick, for a declining Denis Savard

Let’s start with the Hall-Larsson trade…

To Edmonton: D Adam Larsson

To New Jersey: LW Taylor Hall

Drafted 1st overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Hall has grown into one of the top left wingers in the league. A career 0.86 points-per-game, while playing for Edmonton during a rocky rebuild, is incredible.

Hall has been a positive possession player for most of his career, which again, with the Oilers, is a miracle. We saw how good he can be when surrounded by great players, scoring 7 goals and 12 points on route to helping Canada win gold at the World Championships last month.

At 24-years-old, the Calgary, Alta. native is in his prime and will be a huge addition to a Devils lineup whose 2015-16 leading scorer, Kyle Palmieri, had 57 points.

Devils fans following the news…actually, I have no idea, I just want to post anything Seinfeld-related. If you’re new to my articles, expect a lot of this. 

In return, Edmonton gets Larsson, a 23-year-old Swede with nearly 300 games under his belt. New Jersey’s 2011 1st round pick (4th overall), Larsson’s career high 24 points in 2014-15 shows he’s not a threatening offensive D-man, but has been a defensive rock for the Devils (Get it? Because they play at The Rock? Tip your waiter!), averaging 22:31 of ice time, good enough for second on the team. He also led New Jersey with 163 hits.

However, Larsson posted a 44.9 per cent even strength corsi last season, which would have been last among the 13 defensemen who dressed for the Oilers. One-off seasons are normal for defensemen, but in 2014-15, Larsson only generated 47 per cent possession.

One thing to note is he’s averaged over 20 minutes the past two seasons, with 22:31 last season and 20:58 the one prior. In 2012-13 (18:06) and 2013-14 (17:47), his 5v5 CF% was nearly 52 and over 55 per cent, respectively. Perhaps Larsson is better suited to play less minutes and thrive in a secondary role. Edmonton is hoping he can make the next step to a reliable workhoarse blue liner.

My take: Good job, good effort Edmonton

This tweet from yours truly sums up my thoughts.

Many are saying this clears room for the Oilers to add Milan Lucic because let’s be honest it’ll either be them or the Vancouver Canucks another winger, but they could have made a better trade. I understand the market for right-handed blue liners is thin, and Edmonton is desperate to improve their defensive core; however, Larsson alone isn’t nearly enough value for Hall.

How big a deal has everyone made about the Oilers breaking up their youth core — Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, depending on who you ask —  then out of nowhere, give up arguably the best of the four for an above-average defenseman who may never live up to his top-five pick potential and max-out as a second-pairing D?

Some are saying this represents a clear message that the organization is going in a different direction, that moving Hall was necessary for the team to evolve from basement dwellers. That maybe he wasn’t well liked in the locker room, the entirety of his career being eons from playoff contention taking its toll. But trading the guy who would have scored who knows how many points alongside Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaitl until at least 2020 had to net a better gain than someone who marginally improves your blue line.

After Wednesday’s trade, both Taylor Hall (right) and Tyler Seguin, picks 1 and 2 in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, have been moved by Peter Chiarelli. (Getty Images)

Credit to Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli for having the cajones to pull one of the bullets in his trigger. But down the road, he may realize the barrel was pointed at his foot.

To Montreal: D Shea Weber

To Nashville: D P.K. Subban

Sacré bleu!

Pardon my French (which ol’ Pernell Karl doesn’t have to learn anymore!), but this is one of those deals that we’re guaranteed to look at five, 10, 20 years down the road and evaluate.

Can Shea Weber play at a high level deep into his thirties with the Montreal Canadiens? (Don McPeak / USA TODAY Sports)

Rumours swirled of the Habs being interested in trading Subban, especially through last week’s NHL Draft in Buffalo. Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin told media last Thursday “I’m not shopping P.K. Subban,” but acknowledged “I’m taking calls,” which in hockey executive terms means “If you have an offer worth listening to, I’ll listen.”

But what I and what seems like much of the online hockey community doesn’t understand is what made Bergevin agree to this.

Subban has been one of, if not the most polarizing players in the league since his 2010-11 rookie season (BTW: 14 goals and 38 points as a 21-year-old blue liner is really something), but regardless of what you think of his demeanor, his production is undeniable.

Subban has recorded at least 50 points in his last three campaigns, including 38 in 42 — an insane 0.90 points-per-game — in the 2012-13 lockout shortened season.

And yes, Weber isn’t far off in terms of offensive production with 443 points in 763 career games, including 20 goals and 51 points last season — but having two defensive partners like Ryan Suter and Roman Josi has greatly benefited the soon to be 31-year-old (remember that).

My take: Both teams make statement, but only one improved

Aside from on the ice, Weber’s contract is what really baffles me about this deal.

Subban has a cap hit of $9 million until 2022, while Weber will make nearly $7.9 million until 2026. Montreal is paying elite money for a player who the analytics say isn’t.

Added bonus…literally: Weber is due for an $8 million bonus both July  1 this year and next. 

No doubt Subban’s tumultuous era in Montreal was cut short to the relationship he had with coaches and management. While many, including The Hockey Guys own Chris Shannon, think head coach Michel Therrien should have been let go by now, Bergevin has held course. And now, the best defenseman for the Canadiens since perhaps Chelios is gone.

Remember back in July 2012, when Philly signed Weber to that 14-year/$110 million offer sheet, forcing the Predators to match it? Who knew it would would out perfectly, letting them squeeze out arguably the four great years of Weber, then a potentially even better four more by getting them right back with Subban, while unloading on that mammoth cap-killing deal?

All Preds general manager David Poile had to do was pick up the phone and see if Bergevin was interested. Just interested. And he was.

Now Nashville has Subban (27), Josi (25), Mattias Ekholm (25), and Hall’s former two-time Memorial Cup winning teammate with the Windsor Spitfires (2007-10) of the Ontario Hockey League Ryan Ellis (24), there’s a pretty impressive case for the best defensive core in hockey.

Steven Stamkos re-signs with Tampa Bay 

Not the same level of shock as those trades, but as curious and baffling. Why would Stamkos wait all the way to June 29, less than 48 hours before he could sign anywhere for as much money as he wants, to sign an extension worth 8-year, $68 million?

It’s commendable he’d take a discount and stay long-term with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2008. Named captain after Martin St. Louis was traded to the New York Rangers in March 2014, Stamkos has been among the league’s top goal scorers since entering the league, and led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014-15. So much was made about the 26-year-old reaching free agency, but the question not asked enough was why Stamkos would leave Tampa Bay?

My take: Stamkos makes right decisions; Leafs better off in long-game

The hockey pundits, the insiders, the analysts, the blogosphere, Twitter: everybody tried to come up with every reason on why Steven Stamkos would sign with a new franchise.

Endorsements, more money, legacy, fresh start: every idea explored. And some obvious reasons for staying, notably taxes. But the comfort of already knowing the culture of where you’re playing, and the pride of leaving a captaincy without a Stanley Cup handed to you by commissioner Gary Bettman drove Stamkos to stay with the club. The drive we thought assured the sport he’d take a kick at the can of trying to break his hometown its Championship drought was spent on different motives.

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Who can blame him? Obviously he could have made a lot more money on the open market*, but Tampa Bay was, at the moment, his best option to win a title. And why would you ever leave a situation where the weather is perfect, the fans show up, the team is competitive, and the environment is comfortable.

*Can’t imagine the NHLPA is too happy about one of the league’s best players skipping his chance at free agency and maximizing his value

For Toronto: as mentioned, the coverage surrounding number 91’s pending free agency caused quite the uproar in southwestern Ontario. The mental image of Stamkos wearing a Maple Leafs’ sweater come October was enticing; but, committing up to 15 per cent or more of your cap hit to a player whose best years may be behind him

We know he takes great care of his body, but the miles Stamkos has, plus the health concerns over the past few years, may be a blessing in disguise for the blue and white in T.O. Besides, they just drafted Auston Matthews, who they can develop into their own franchise centre without having to give up millions of dollars…just yet.

Hunter Crowther is a managing editor for The Hockey Guys. You can follow him on twitter @HunterCrowther or email him at hunter.crow@hotmail.com

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