How Much Should the Leafs Pay for PK Subban?


Yesterday I was fooling around on Twitter and started daydreaming about what would happen if the Montreal Canadiens were actually dumb enough to shop PK Subban. I was just messing with people talking about a Mitch Marner-plus deal for Subban offer knowing full well there’s no way Marc Bergevin would ever consider moving the 26-year old Subban who is arguably one of the best three or four defensemen in the world. That is until something popped up on my Twitter timeline this morning:

You might think us writing an article about trading for Subban is extremely stupid, but the Canadiens actually called around to see what they could get for him… So who’s really stupid here?

Now maybe this is nothing and Subban’s name might have been brought up just as a hypothetical when Bergevin called Pittsburgh about Sidney Crosby, but if Subban is truly on the trade market, he is the guy the Maple Leafs have to be all-in for. 

“Gauging trade interest is an interesting way of putting it and may point to Canadiens management being even more inept than originally thought. 29 teams in the NHL would be interested in trading for PK Subban. Not every team could afford his contract but the interest would be there and if Bergevin has to call around to find that out, Habs fans should be scared by how out of touch he is.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in the middle of a painful rebuild, they’re the worst team in the league and are just counting down the days until the draft lottery. It’s a long road back from the Burke-Nonis era but the Leafs are finally doing it the right way. Accelerating a rebuild is something that has failed in the past, but is it always a terrible idea?

In my eyes, there is only one way an accelerated rebuild works… acquiring bonafide superstars in their prime – and in Subban’s case, that is exactly what we’re talking about. PK Subban is a superstar. He’s a charismatic, fun-loving man who has the personality to succeed at just about anything he does and as luck would have it, he’s also got all-world talent when playing the game of hockey. Subban is one of the legitimate ‘good guys’ in the NHL. He’s great in the community, wonderful to the fans and charitable beyond belief. He’s the kind of player you want to put the captain’s C on. Oh and he just happens to be from this great city of Toronto.

Acquiring Subban will be expensive. The Leafs would have to give up a couple assets that the fan base has become quite attached to, but this is Subban we’re talking about. He’s one of the few players you’d consider moving your top assets for. The guys thought to be ‘untouchable’ are suddenly on the table. The problem is, you’re not getting Subban for Morgan Rielly straight up. You’d get him for Rielly + JVR, maybe, and that is a big price. Also, moving Rielly for Subban defeats the purpose as what you’d be trying to do is add to the future defensive core of the team. The Leafs first round pick this year would also be another piece Montreal would be interested in, but it’s probably not a good idea to trade the pick that could end up being first overall.

That brings us to the one asset that I would be willing to give up and that Montreal would accept as the centerpiece of a trade for their best skater – Mitch Marner. There are going to be many Leafs fans that would stop right there, ‘no way we give up on a player that skilled let alone add to him’ (which would likely be necessary). Hear me out. Mitch Marner is a fantastic prospect. He’s got high-end talent and projects to be a top line player at the NHL level. He is, however, still a prospect. He’s 18, small-ish, and does a lot of things on the ice that dazzle in the OHL but likely won’t translate over to the next level. He’s likely got the talent level to adapt his game and live up to the potential, but it will take time. Some fans are already penciling Marner in as a top line impact winger for next season. I think that kind of expectation is dangerous – he could be that player, just likely not next year and maybe not for a few more. If I were Lou Lamoriello, I’d call the Canadiens and offer Marner plus Pittsburgh’s first round pick and not even blink an eye (heck I’d probably even add any of the defensive prospects in the system to that package). It’s a steep price, but Subban is one of the few players you’d give up these kinds of assets up for. 

Then there’s that other guy in Tampa. The longer he goes without a contract extension, the more the speculation is going to build that Steven Stamkos wants to come home and play for the Leafs. The Leafs are far and away the front-runner if Stamkos chooses to leave Tampa, who are perceived to be the next in line? The Montreal Canadiens. Why? To play with his great friend and minor hockey teammate PK Subban. Trading away Subban would all but kill any chance the Habs have of signing Stamkos this summer (if they actually had a chance to begin).

“But the contracts”. I hear you, Subban has a big contract, $9 million a year until 2022. Add to that the likelihood that if you can sign Stamkos it will likely cost you another $10 million long-term. The idea of $19 million is is something that would scare many off but the Leafs have spent the last two years putting themselves in an incredible cap situation. They have a lot of room going forward and will rely on relatively cheap labour through entry-level contracts. Two big contracts plus a likely Rielly extension eat away at the cap quite a bit, but making room for top players is why you clear out cap space in the first place. 

Subban has a no-trade clause that kicks in this July but even if it were already in place there is no doubt that he would love to come to Toronto, where he can be among friends and family. He would be adored in this city in a way he didn’t think possible and would likely have a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup as the Leafs rebuild is already a couple years ahead of Montreal’s. Wait, Montreal is rebuilding, right? I mean, they’re so low in the standings…

Accelerating a rebuild is always a bad idea in sports, except of course if you can acquire two legitimate superstars in their mid-20s. This Leafs team is bad – really bad – but if you’re able to acquire Subban and hold on to all of Rielly, Nylander and your first round pick, all of a sudden the near future looks pretty sunny. Last night’s roster looked like a mid-level AHL team but add Subban, Nylander, Stamkos, JVR and a top-3 pick from this year’s draft (all of Matthews, Puljujarvi and Laine are likely to step into the NHL immediately) and you’ve likely got a playoff team next season. Hey, even Tank Nation can dream, right?

  • elseldo

    Ok you are nuts and this is exactly what is wrong with leafs fans. The moment you start drafting good talented players, you want to trade them away for bloated contracts. P.K. is awesome no doubt. But no way in hell I give up anything remotely close to that to take on that contract.

    The most I offer is Percy, Gardiner, Lupul and at most a second round pick. Lupul and Gardiner even the money out. Habs get a cheaper replacement for PK, some scoring, a C prospect, and a second pick. That’s it no more. Otherwise walk away and forget PK.

    Let’s not forget Habs don’t have much leverage here. He is gonna earn 10mil starting next year. Who the heck is gonna trade for that kind of long term contract exactly and give up top prospects to boot? Not a chance

    Take it or leave it. Walk away and stick to the plan.

  • elseldo

    You can’t give up Marner. He AND Nylander are still a gamble. The odds are better if you’re gambling (keeping) both.

    JVR + Pittsburgh’s 1st + Percy

    Dermott and Nielsen will make Percy more expendable in a couple years. JVR is great but his value is higher than his play with his super cheap contract. Pitts 1st doesn’t hurt when Subban puts up more points than Kessel next year.

  • jasken

    There is no such thing as accelerated rebuild have you people not learned yet, there is no stamkos coming no subban acknowledge and accept the pain. In order to maintain a sustainable successful team it has to happen gradually.

    You need a continous pool of draft picks

    A solid development system where they can learn and grow together.

    They need the proper leadership to guide them and to teach them how to teach others in doing things the right way.

  • I don’t know that the Leafs should trade for him. He’s being paid like he’s a top-10 player but I don’t think he’ll ever be top-10 player. Don’t get me wrong, he’s upper tier as an offensive dman but he’s mediocre at best defensively. While I like his personality, I’m not sure everyone else does…including his teammates – I think some of his behaviour is viewed as selfish by some.

    Habs would want Morgan Rielly and then some I imagine…and I’d rather just keep (5 yrs younger) Morgan Rielly. I also don’t know that Morgan Rielly & PK would compliment each other as a top pairing unit. Pass.

    PS: If I was to make an offer for Subban, it’d be JvR + Komorov + Percy + PIT 1st. I would hate giving up Leo + JvR but you have to give to get. (that said, I doubt that would be enough – they’ll want at least one of Marner/Nylander/Rielly)

    I think that the Leafs should stick to the plan and build around those three who are 18-21 years old and whoever they pick in this years draft.

      • fun is talking about who the leafs will get to draft or which pending UFAs they will trade at the deadline or things that could conceivably happen. this is just stupid. and it makes everyone including the author look like an idiot for being baited by this sort of reporting. if you could write some articles on the top 10 prospects in the draft and which ones fit with the leafs the best, I would love to read them. but that’s tangible and realistic and probably wouldn’t be a whole lot of fun for you.

  • Gary Empey

    What the Habs need is more French Canadians. Nobody but the most French of players deserve to wear the iconic toilet seat.

    Robidas, Gauthier and Greening, and I’ll even toss in Mark Louis because I’m in a good mood.

    Come to think of it Price is way too anglo to play for the Habs as well. I mean, he’s from BRITISH Columbia…
    Price for Bernier, straight up.

  • Gary Empey

    Wow, some of these offers proposed in the comments are laughable…

    JVR+Percy+Pittsburgh’s first?

    uh, at a BARE minimum the starting offer is JVR+Gardiner+Pittsburgh’s 1st, let’s get that straight. And at that price I do the trade in a heartbeat.

    Montreal probably asks for our 2016 first as well, which we’d obviously refuse, at which point they’d ask for our 2017 first, and I think long and hard about that one, before countering with JVR/Gard/Pens-2016-1/Sens-2017-2/Leafs-2016-2 + maybe another pick we acquire at the deadline this year, and one of our top B-prospects (one of Kapanen, Harrington, Percy, Johnson, Leipsic, Brown, Lindberg).

    If they draw a hard line at 2 1sts + JVR + Gardiner, I still lean towards pulling the trigger. The only real assets I’d be seriously hesitant on would be Rielly, Marner, Nylander, 2016 1st, 2017 1st. Everything else on this team I’d consider.

  • Benjamin

    Absolutely nothing because we don’t want him. We just got rid of players who have ridiculous contracts, have bad attitudes and had too many giveaways… We don’t need another. Subban would look great on a few teams, but not ours and his contract is brutal

  • JimMc

    ” the 26-year old Subban who is arguably one of the best three or four defensemen in the world. ”

    Wow, are you kidding? Check out the list of current Norris favourites, P.K. is nowhere to be found. Year after year he leads the ENTIRE league in giveaways, offset by being mediocre at takeaways, he doesn’t hit much, he doesn’t do a great deal of shot blocking relative the other d men in the league. Sure he scores some but cut his PPlay time and preponderence of O zone shift starts and see where that leaves you. Babcock almost completely refused to use him on Team Canada and for good reason.
    This guy has been continuously over rated and only promoted by media types who don’t seem to do a lot of research. A huge contract and an over rated defensive liability in exchange for some of the top prospects in the league? Yeah, sign me up.

    • Benjamin

      Uhhhhh. If we’re talking research you should probably do the research into how dumb criticizing giveaway totals is. Possession of the puck wins games. Players who posses the puck a lot make a lot of turnovers. But the great ones. Karlsson, Burns, Subban, etc. outweigh their giveaways with their incredible possession play.
      To think Subban is overrated by the media who slags him more than most his an awesomly hilarious take

  • FlareKnight

    As the article itself stated was possible, I’m pulling on the breaks with Marner going into this. No thank you. GG, out.

    No doubt PK is a darn good d-man and certainly has a lot of personality. I’m sure Dangle would manage to do a backflip if we added him.

    But I’m not big on the price that would be involved trading a guy like that within the division.

    I don’t think he’s worth what the price would be.

  • Benjamin

    No thanks. Imo he is too old, any player over 25 today is a liability since they have already played way too many hours in the minors and juniors. In China for example, no one over 30 is seriously considered for a job. Push for an Eichel type player instead. The avg age for an American fighting man in Vietnam was 19. Those were the REAL warriors.