Why the Montreal Canadiens should consider a reunion with PK Subban

Could the Montreal Canadiens host a big reunion?

Veteran NHL defenseman PK Subban is currently an unrestricted free agent after completing an eight-year, $72 million contract he signed with the Canadiens in 2014. Now 33 and after a disappointing 22-year season points with the New Jersey Devils, Subban is expected to earn significantly less on his next contract and is unlikely to be offered more than two years.

Although the Devils are keen on bringing Subban back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the 2013 Norris Trophy winner test the market and find the right situation for him.

The 6ft right-handed defender might be a strong candidate for a contender looking to add versatility to his back six, but the most intriguing – and arguably the most exciting – game might be with the team it all started with a dozen years since.

If they haven’t already, general manager Kent Hughes and the Canadiens could consider bringing Subban back into the fold, six years from a blockbuster trade that sent him from Montreal to Nashville for the defender starring Shea Weber.

PK Subban has a big decision to make as an unrestricted free agent, but a return to the Montreal Canadiens could make a lot of sense. (Getty Pictures)

Subban became a superstar with the Habs, becoming one of the most electric players and personalities in the league in seven seasons in Montreal. The Toronto native scored 63 goals and 215 assists for 278 points in 434 games with the Canadiens and was named the NHL’s top defenseman in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.

Dazzling fans with his performances on the ice, Subban has equally impacted the community with his off-ice efforts, including pledging $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital in September 2015.

Although he’s no longer the player who could turn a game around with a single moment of magic, he might be worth a flyer for a club that most likely eyes another tough season ahead.

The right side of the Habs could use some help

After trade veteran defenseman Jeff Petry at the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday, the Canadiens find themselves short on the right side of their defense, with only David Savard, Chris Wideman and 20-year-old Justin Barron making up the current depth chart. Savard will likely end up in the best pair, but neither Wideman nor Barron are the kind of players to reliably complete the top four on an NHL blue line.

Subban is no longer the star he used to be and can no longer carry out the same defensive responsibilities that were given to him. He was, however, able to defend himself in a more protected role last season, finishing the year with a Corsi percentage of 50.51 and an expected goal percentage of 52.34 at five against five with an average of 18:18 minutes. per game, the lowest of his career.

All indications are that the Canadiens won’t be looking to sign a big free agent defender – like John Klingberg – to significantly bolster their defense, so maybe a smaller contract for a player like Subban is the way to go. follow for support on the right side.

Horrible power play needs a boost

Montreal had the second-worst power play in the league in 2021-22, converting just 13.7% of its chances on the power play. Forward Nick Suzuki led the team with 20 power-play points, and the top-scoring defenseman on the PP was Wideman with 12. The Canadiens’ power play couldn’t get any worse and could use a piece to make it more dangerous and give the team a much-needed boost.

Subban’s reputation as a gifted offensive defenseman would make him a worthy candidate to bolster the unit on the power play, having recorded 190 power play points in his career. The problem is, Subban seems to have lost his scoring touch, amassing just 11 power-play points since arriving in New Jersey. To his credit, the Devils have the fourth-worst power play in the NHL since 2019-20, converting on just 16.1% of their chances.

While he won’t turn that power play into a league-leading unit, Montreal could benefit from Subban’s searing shooting and his creativity with the puck along the blue line.

Huge fan favorite

You can’t have a conversation about hockey in Montreal without it quickly turning to the subject of Subban, even though he hasn’t played with the Habs since 2016.

A significant chunk of the fan base still hasn’t forgiven former general manager Marc Bergevin for trading the fan favorite, even with his game’s noticeable decline since moving to Nashville and then the New Jersey. The winner of the trade has been debated to death for years, and with Subban and Weber failing the Stanley Cup Finals after the deal, it’s hard to make a convincing argument one way or the other. other.

With Weber set to retire and no longer a member of the Canadiens, the heated debate has died down, and perhaps signing Subban could go a long way in resolving some of the trust issues between the team and its supporters.

No one lifted fans from their seats like Subban did in Montreal, igniting the crowd with a thunderous kick, a shrewd gesture or a big goal, always followed by a stirring celebration. Few people enjoy long standing ovations at the Bell Center like Subban did when he first returned to the arena as the Predator. The tears in his eyes tell you everything you need to know about the connection between the city and the player.

After hitting rock bottom last season and earning the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, Montreal is clearly undergoing a much-needed rebuild. A talented young core centered around Suzuki, Cole Caufield, first-choice Juraj Slafkovsky and newly acquired Kirby Dach can provide exciting moments throughout the season, but that’s unlikely to translate into success just yet. Another austere season looks set to begin, and in a market that prides itself on a sold-out crowd and a noisy building, the team may struggle to fill the Bell Center consistently.

Subban’s potential impact on the ice would be limited and far from the level he has already reached with the blue White Red. But the marketing potential of bringing Montreal’s prodigal son home may very well be worth some extra thought in the Canadiens’ front office.

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