VANCOUVER, B.C. (AP) — The revamp of the New Jersey Devils now includes one of the top defensemen in the NHL to go along with No. 1 overall draft pick Jack Hughes.
The Devils made the biggest move of the second day of the NHL draft Saturday before any picks were made by acquiring All-Star P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators for two players and a pair of draft picks.
“Obviously, his legacy in terms of off-ice stuff is well known, but on ice he’s a competitor, he wants to win,” New Jersey general manager Ray Shero said. “I love the fact he hasn’t won a Cup yet. He’s hungry for that and so are we.”
It was a headline grabbing big splash for both clubs. After taking Hughes, the 18-year-old American star, with the No. 1 pick Friday night, the Devils landed a star defenseman to potentially share the ice with the new young forward.
For the Predators it was another deft move by general manager David Poile to shed salary and shake up a stagnant roster after two straight early playoff exits. New Jersey sent defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, along with a second-round pick this year and a 2020 second-round pick to the Predators.
But it was a small sacrifice for the chance to land the 30-year-old six-time All-Star. Shero expected to get word from Poile on Friday night about a deal that had been in conversation for several days. Shero said he was talking with managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer when he realized the hopeful phone call wasn’t coming.
It finally came Saturday morning.
“I said to Josh and David last night, ‘I know this is the right deal because if it doesn’t happen I’m going to be really disappointed,’” Shero said.
Subban was thought to be on the trade block because of his $9 million salary cap hit for each of the next three seasons. But it’s a fit for the Devils, who are expected to have about $34 million in cap space. And the addition of Subban doesn’t hamstring the Devils from being able to try and re-sign Taylor Hall, Andy Greene or Sami Vatanen before they hit free agency.
Subban posted a video on social media about the trade, thanking Nashville for his time there and his excitement about going to the Devils.
“I just want to tell you guys, are you guys ready for the ‘Subbanator?’ Because I’m ready to go. Let’s go,” Subban said.
The 2013 Norris Trophy winner spent the past three years in Nashville, but was limited to 31 points in 63 games last season. After consecutive early playoff exits, the Predators are clearly trying to make some changes.
Speculation has centered on Nashville targeting Matt Duchene in free agency now that Subban’s salary is gone.
“We had to make a business decision. With an aim at strengthening our forward corps this offseason, and the continued strength of our defensive group, we felt it was necessary to clear up salary-cap space this way,” Poile said.
It was the second time the popular Subban was traded. After becoming a star in Montreal, Subban was dealt to Nashville in June 2016 in a blockbuster deal that included Shea Weber, and the deal paid off immediately.
Nashville reached the Stanley Cup Finals in Subban’s first season with the Predators. But the Predators were ousted early from the playoffs each of the past two seasons, including the 2017-18 season when Nashville won the Presidents’ Trophy but was knocked out in the conference semifinals by Winnipeg.
It’s now Subban’s job to help get New Jersey back in those kinds of conversations among the best in the league. The Devils finished last in the Metropolitan Division last season and have made the playoffs just once since losing in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.
“It’s great for our market. It’s great for the Devils franchise and in our area we deserve to have a Jack Hughes, a Taylor Hall, a Nico Hischier — along with P.K. Subban — and be relevant,” Shero said.
Santini has played parts of the past three seasons for New Jersey. He had a goal and three assists last year in a career-high 39 games.
Davies was a seventh-round pick of the Devils in the 2016 draft but instead went to college and spent the last three seasons playing for Northeastern.