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WHAT THE PUCK: Subban and his $9M salary might be departing Nashville

 Nashville Predators’ P.K. Subban reacts after his team’s win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Jan. 5, 2019.
Nashville Predators’ P.K. Subban reacts after his team’s win over the Canadiens in Montreal on Jan. 5, 2019.

And so begins the annual P.K. Subban trade rumour mill.

There were rumblings of this possibility from the moment Subban’s Nashville Predators were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Dallas Stars. Clearly, veteran Preds general manager David Poile is going to have to make big moves during the off-season if he wants to get the team back to contender status. And given the depth of the Predators’ blue-line corps and the heft of Subban’s salary, Subban might be part of those moves.

Subban acknowledged after the playoff exit it is a possibility he might be traded.

“I’ve been lucky enough, and I say lucky because not everybody is able to get that experience, but I’m lucky enough to have been traded in my career and understand the business side of it,” Subban said, in a column by Adam Vingan in The Athletic.

He was traded in June 2016, when Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin sent Subban to Nashville in exchange for Shea Weber. (And, yes, I am ready for the usual “GET OVER IT” tweets from the usual suspects who follow this column.)

The Subban trade rumours heated up in recent days with the speculation Poile might pursue Matt Duchene. The Duchene gossip increased on Thursday, when Duchene tweeted to say he was in Nashville to help celebrate Columbus Blue Jackets teammate Riley Nash’s 30th birthday.

If Nashville were to land Duchene — who is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — obviously they would have to dole out some serious cash for the forward and that’s when Poile might have to take a hard look at the US$9 million he’s paying annually to Subban, his highest-paid player.

The Subban chatter in Montreal went into overdrive Thursday when TSN hockey pundit Darren Dreger was asked about No. 76 by Conor McKenna on the TSN 690 morning show.

“I think there’s a possibility of that,” Dreger said. “I think the Nashville Predators are going to have a fair bit of interest in Matt Duchene as a pending unrestricted free agent. But in order for Nashville to get into that game, they’re going to have to move out some pieces … and the names we’re hearing in a speculative way are Kyle Turris and P.K. Subban. … P.K. Subban is a very good NHL defenceman. At times, he’s been high-risk. He was that way in Montreal and he carried that game to Nashville. The challenge for David Poile (is) how do you move that contract with that amount of money? So there are some out there who say: ‘Yes, there would be interest in P.K. Subban, and there should be, but it might require the Nashville Predators to eat a bit of that salary and I don’t know that David Poile is going to want to do that.”

Dreger continues the usual Subban myth about how high-risk he is. The bottom line is he is one of the league’s elite defencemen and if he is on the market, there will be plenty of teams interested.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi penned a column recently suggesting the Flyers could well be the perfect fit for Subban, with Carchidi speculating it could be a one-for-one exchange with Subban shoring up the Flyers’ D and Nashville receiving some much needed help up front with the acquisition of forward Jakub Voracek.

The Preds were 19th in the NHL in scoring last season and their power play was the worst in the league. (It’s hard to believe a team had a worse power play than the Habs’ unit.)

That potential trade would reunite Subban with Michel Therrien , who was just hired by new Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault to be one of his assistants. Therrien was never president of the Subban fan club, routinely dissing him when he was a media commentator and he was just as unsupportive when coaching Subban with the Habs. If you don’t believe Therrien had issues with Subban, check out this video of him chewing out the Norris Trophy-winning defenceman:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=0JldajgWmv0

Here’s an even wilder scenario: Bergevin reaches out to Poile and brings Pernell-Karl back to Montreal. On paper, Subban is just what the Habs’ defence needs, a talented puck-mover who’d be a plus on the power play. However, the Habs probably don’t have the money to pay that salary if Bergevin tries to snare an A-list forward or two. Also can you imagine Bergevin and Subban back together again? I can’t, either.

bkelly@postmedia.com

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