Last week, The Maven brought up the idea of trading Brandon Saad. You should read the whole thing, but the SparkNotes version is that the Hawks might have as many as three forwards who can maybe do what Saad does for less money. This money will be important for re-signing Alex DeBrincat after next year.
While we’ve been hemming and hawing over how the Hawks need to make a legitimate run at Erik “My Crotch Is Itchy” Karlsson, it’s hard to picture the organization having the stomach to pay him the $12 million per over eight years he’ll probably ask for (and deserve). EK65 will always be the dream(boat), but you can see the Hawks balking, with DeBrincat and possibly Strome asking for the money the Hawks owe them in arrears for setting the world on fire.
With all that in mind, there are three things the Hawks should be looking to do this offseason:
1. Shore up the defense
2. Improve the penalty kill
3. Add a top-six forward
Shoring up the defense and improving the penalty kill are so far ahead of adding a top-six forward in my view that if the Hawks decided to trade Brandon Saad—who himself is a top-six winger, even if Beto O’Colliton thinks he was born for this third-line horseshit—to solve the first two problems, I wouldn’t even be mad.
I’ll stop edging you here.
Let’s offer Brandon Saad, Erik Gustafsson, and a pick/prospect for P.K. Subban.
How the FUCK Did You Come Up With That?
After the Preds were hilariously bounced from the playoffs much earlier than anticipated, the trade rumors around Pernell-Karl began circulating immediately. (Whether they’re true or not doesn’t matter right now. We’re bored and don’t really want to think about the Cup, so this is what we’re doing.) If there’s even a small consideration that David Poile would trade someone as dynamic, fashionable, and wonderful as P.K. Subban, you absolutely must make a phone call, division rivalry be damned. (As much as I’d like to use the Hartman–Ejdsell trade as proof that in-division trades can happen, what I’m proposing is a much more unwieldy beast than that.)
P.K. Subban on the Hawks definitely shores up the defense. He most likely improves the penalty kill as well.
OK, Dumbass, Why Would Nashville Ever Do That?
Let’s say you get Poile on the phone and offer Saad, Gus, and a pick/prospect. Let’s say the pick/prospect is either Boqvist or this year’s second round pick (#43 overall). Is this comparable? Let’s start with the stats.
Last year was Subban’s worst year as a professional hockey player. He posted his lowest games-played total (not counting the season-in-a-can in 2013), his lowest assists total, his lowest points total, and third-lowest goals total. He was out for six weeks nursing an upper body injury, which no doubt contributed to his off year.
Compare that to the two players the Hawks would give up. Erik Gustafsson not only had the best year of his career by far but also was one of the best offensive D-men statistically in the NHL last year. He and P.K. Subban have exactly the same number of 60-point seasons under their belts. He’s also younger (27 vs. 30) and on a much friendlier albeit soon-to-be-ending contract ($1.2 million vs. $9 million). Something tells me you can use these points to convince Poile it’s not a bad idea.
Likewise, Brandon Saad’s 47 points would have made him a top-five scorer for the Preds last year. His 23 goals would be third behind Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. His 24 assists would also be top five on the Preds.
Based solely on last year’s numbers, this trade is a huge win for the Preds, statistically.
But of course, we can’t neglect history. P.K. Subban is without a doubt one of the top D-men of his generation. He’s been a consistent force on both sides of the puck and on both sides of the special-teams ledger. His presence on the PP is devastating, and in the four years prior to last year (2014–2018), Subban played a top role on both the Canadiens’s and Preds’s PK units: Each team’s PK finished 7th, 12th, 15th, and 6th, respectively, and in the two years a Subban team finished outside the top 10, Subban had missed at least 14 games. Neither Saad nor Gus have anything close to his pedigree.
At this point, it’s probably not a bad idea to talk about cap implications, because that could matter.
With this trade offer, the Preds would free up $1.8 million in cap space, giving them just about $9 million to play with (according to CapFriendly). Maybe they use that money to add another scoring threat in, like, Jeff Skinner, I don’t know. Fuck Nashville, I’m not doing this for them.
The point is: If Nashville truly believes it’s Subban’s fault they got knocked out so early and would consider trading him for it, Gus and Saad both provide as much or more offense than they currently have for less money. Nashville can then use that additional money to re-sign Josi or sign Duchene or Ferland or whichever other good ol’ boy they think is the missing piece but obviously isn’t. Plus, Poile might be getting itchy feet, as his team hasn’t yet won the Cup all of its entitled, illiterate, hillbilly, raising-banners-for-nothing-that-matters fans have been stealing college chants about, such is the depth of that pool of cleverness. He can MAKE A MOVE and trade his misidentified scapegoat in one fell swoop.
While Saad and Gus would be good adds for Nashville in the contexts of last year; Nashville’s need for more scoring from their forwards; and their need to replace the defensive offense Subban provides; P.K. Subban is a legitimate star who can pull the receipts out of any one of his agonizingly fashionable outfits as proof. That’s where you’d hope the #43 pick pushes this offer over the top.
I had wanted to use the #3 overall pick in this peyote-driven fantasy. As much as I love Subban (fuck, I’m offering SAAD for Christ’s sake), giving up 100-plus points AND a decent lottery ticket is probably feeling my oats a tad too much. Maybe you talk #3 if it’s an either/or with Saad and Gus, but that’s gonna complicate things more than I’m willing to get into. So you offer the #43. If they say no to that, or if they said, “No, we’d rather have Boqvist,” fine, I don’t fucking care, you can have him.
Because remember, you’re getting P.K. Subban, a proven two-way D-man who can play well on special teams. Boqvist doesn’t project to do that, and even if he ever became that, the Core will be long dead by then (or retired or whatever it is hockey players do when they’re done playing). And by all indications, the goal is to make one last run at it with this Core, specifically, Kane and Toews.
So again, the point of this trade is to shore up the defense and improve the PK, with the overarching goal of making one more run at a Cup with the Core. If the price is right, Subban might be the missing piece.
I’ve Made It This Far. What’s It Look Like?
What do the Hawks look like if something like this goes through? Let’s start by using the current roster after the trade.
Boqvist/Beaudin–Koekkoek/Seabrook (Kill me)
That top four on the backend starts looking a lot better. Subban also gets Seabrook off the PK, which is an absolute must after last year’s trainwreck. You can mix and match Murphy and Harju, Subban and Keith. Having Subban back there solves a lot of defensive and PK problems. Subban also knows how to move the puck, which the Hawks have missed as Keith has aged.
This line up as you see it makes a few assumptions. First, I’m assuming that the Hawks re-sign the entire third line at $1 million per: Each of Perlini, Kampf, and Sikura is an RFA this year. This is purely a guess at what they’ll get. I’m also guessing that Kabulik brings a $2 million cap hit, because I don’t know what his contract actually looks like.
With these assumptions, the Hawks still have $11–12 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s probably not enough to both sign a top-six forward this year AND re-sign DeBrincat/Strome next year, unless you find someone willing to take Anisimov’s contract. This also asks a lot of Dominik Kabulik, but slotting him with someone he knows (Kahun) and someone he can probably trust (Toews) is about as soft a landing as you can get. It ALSO doesn’t consider what the Hawks will do about Crawford, who is a UFA after next year.
P.K. Subban would solve a ton of problems the Hawks have. He’d give them the second-best shot (after Karlsson) of shoring up the Hawks’s woeful blue line (and he might be a safer bet than Karlsson anyway). He’d keep this Core’s window open just a little bit longer.
If the Hawks could get him for Saad, Gus, and the #43 or a prospect like Boqvist, I’m pulling the trigger on that every day. For P.K. Subban, the whole package is more than worth it.
If the goal is to make one more run at a Cup with the Core, Subban can help. We’d just need Dave Poile—the winningest GM in NHL history, except in the one game that matters—to prove what a huge fucking genius he is one more time.
Stats from hockey-reference.com and NaturalStatTrick. Cap shit from CapFriendly’s Armchair GM tool.