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Day News, Night Reactions: Devils Acquired Adam Helewka; PK Subban Speaks as a Devil

This post is a reaction two notable bits of New Jersey Devils news that circulated today. First, a minor league trade that brings Adam Helewka to the organization. Second, P.K. Subban’s first conference call as a Devil with selected quotes highlighted.

San Jose Sharks v Vegas Golden Knights
An old preseason photo (2017) of Adam Helewka, back when he was a Shark
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In the past two days, the New Jersey Devils were very busy in Vancouver. They drafted Jack Hughes first overall. They traded for P.K. Subban without giving up a first round draft pick or a current NHL player. They moved John Quenneville for John Hayden. They traded some picks down and ended up drafting ten players on the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft. As Jenna wrote last night, the Devils pulled out all the stops. So much so that a transaction slipped through the cracks to my and perhaps your knowledge. The Devils made a second trade with Nashville last night. The Devils acquired left winger Adam Helewka for the ever popular future considerations.

This is very much a minor league deal. After all, the source I linked to was a tweet from the Milwaukee Admirals, Nashville’s AHL affiliate. Furthermore, the Devils are sending Nashville future considerations. That’s not even a pick or a player. It is literally the barest minimum that has to be involved in a trade in the NHL. There can be no real criticism of this trade. The Devils got a player for next-to-nothing.

I find this somewhat odd because Nashville signed Helewka to a one-season, two-way contract extension ($700,000 in the NHL, $70,000 in the AHL) back on February 27. Not even five months later, Nashville lets him go for squat. What happened in Milwaukee or in Nashville that led to this?

In any case, the 23-year old left winger will be joining his fourth organization. Here is his Elite Prospects profile. In summary, here is the career story so far: He was drafted in the fourth round by San Jose in 2015. After a successful career in the WHL, he made the jump to minor pro hockey with the Barracuda. On June 14, 2018, he was traded from San Jose to Arizona for Kyle Wood, another AHLer. Helewka did not make the Coyotes so he suited up for the Tucson Roadrunners last season. That all changed on February 8 when Arizona sent him and Laurent Dauphin to Nashville for Emil Pettersson. Helewka moved on up to Milwaukee, received a one-year extension by the end of February, and now in late June he is a Devil.

Will Helewka be good? I think he will be quite good for Binghamton. The soon-to-be 24-year old has been a fairly productive AHL player. His career point-per-game rate in the AHL is 0.62 (118 points in 189 games) per Elite Prospects. According to Prospect-Stats, of his 50 points last season, 37 of them were primary points, or goals and primary assists. That put him for the 51st among AHL forwards in primary points last season - and more than any Binghamton player (Pietila had 36). His player page for the 2018-19 season at Prospect-Stats shows that nearly all of rates (e.g. goals per game, assists per game) in the percentiles for first-line forwards. The only exceptions were in estimated ice time, where Helewka was in the second-line group, and shots per game, where his 1.54 ranked around where a third-liner would be. With Eric Tangradi as a pending unrestricted free agent, Helewka can step in and be a younger and similarly or more productive winger in Binghamton. I’m sure he’ll get a look in New Jersey’s camp but unless there is another rash of injuries at forward, I think he’ll be in Bingo - and that’s perfectly fine. The B-Devils were rolled a lot last season and that can be detrimental for the prospects playing there. Adding some talent even if it is for a season can only be a positive. And, again, it was only for future considerations.

Of course, the Devils made a more significant and relevant trade with Nashville yesterday. They acquired P.K. Subban. Let’s focus on him.

Earlier today, Subban had a conference call for the first time as a Devil. MSG Networks recorded and uplodaded the entire conference call to Youtube. I found it through r/Devils on Reddit (shout out to the OP u/NYDevilsfan). If you have 30 minutes, here is the whole thing for your entertainment:

Let’s highlight some notable quotes from the star defenseman. The team’s official Twitter account posted some of them to much fanfare. This is the biggest one in my opinion (it’s 17:13 into the video if you want to hear it):

I will admit that 50% of the reason for this post is so I can include this very quote. I also want to put it in larger letters too.

There we go. In just a few words, large swathes of the Devils fanbase swooned. Granted, most players will tell you that they want to achieve the ultimate goal and win a championship and so forth. But Subban’s natural charisma and his specific phrasing make it carry more weight than what a cliche would. Knowing that he’s 30 and part of an organization that wants to get back to being contenders helps make it sound good.

Second, Subban also confirmed that he will wear #76. The Devils also tweeted out this great line for it:

Andy Greene’s number remains safe. Still, this is good news for the fan that wanted to go out and buy a Subban Devils jersey as soon as possible. You can all safely make 76 the number for the personalized jersey. I hope the Devils organization is smart (I wouldn’t assume this) and has started making Subban #76 jerseys ready to be bought at the Devils Den and at the Rock. They should also do the same when Jack Hughes confirms what his number will be - assuming he did not already.

(As an aside, this is the sort of thing where some Devils fans will sneer, “Lou would not allow this. He didn’t allow high numbers.” This sneering thought deserves as a “Well, actually.” Well, actually, Lou did allow exceptions for higher numbers that carried some meaning to the player. Stephane Richer kept his #44, Doug Gilmore kept his #93, Alexander Mogilny kept his #89, and Jaromir Jagr kept his #68. I’m confident Subban would’ve been able to keep the same number he has had since entering the league.)

Third, in response to a question about how last season was a down year with the injuries and point production, Subban finished a lengthy response with the following, which started at 9:33:

“That’s the thing. Once you hit the age of 30, everybody wants to look at you as if you’re on the way down, but for me, I have a lot of hockey left to give, a lot of great hockey in me, and I feel great. I never felt better and I’m excited just to give a team whatever I can give them to help them win. You know, I think playing in Nashville, there’s a lot of great defensemen there, so not always getting the opportunity to play 26-27 minutes a night or be on the power play or in all situations consistently sometimes can affect you as well as a player. So I think in New Jersey it’s going to be a different situation, a different opportunity, and I look forward to that. I’m taking on more of a role.”

Subban definitely answered the man’s question and much more. No wonder media people love Subban. He took a bland question and provided a lengthy, detailed response with much to pull from. I loved how he segued into multiple topics, especially towards the end of the response. He addressed his age and his injury with a positive, confident answer. He noted how his situation in Nashville also impacted what he could do - which is true. With his 2018-19 season not going so well, Subban saw fewer minutes and power play time. Defendable, yes. Wise? It remains to be seen. But this hints that Subban is looking to play major minutes in New Jersey. Given who else is on the defense, it is hard to say he should not get that opportunity. I like Will Butcher and Damon Severson but neither are on Subban’s level.

By the way, his comments about Nashville weren’t disrespectful. His next response on the call had him graciously thanking the Preds organization, David Poile, Peter Laviolette, and others. He openly stated that he understands it was a business decision for them and he knows he has a job to do to show that he is worth the expectation of being a top defenseman in New Jersey. I do not think the bridge is burnt there. Nor do I expect Nashville sports media to run this guy down every chance they get like some focused on a team in Quebec.

Those three bits stuck out and his answers throughout the near-30 minute call show are worth your time. He discusses giving back to the community. He specifically mentioned that he needs to discuss this with his new team so everyone can be involved and whatever is done is aligned with how the Devils want to do things. He discussed how Scott Niedermayer played the game made an impression upon him and he learned from that and the play of former Devils. He shared his family’s reaction, which was that they were really excited. But those three quotes, two shared by the team and one I thought was worth spelling out, stood out to me on this call.

I understand it all ultimately may be red meat for a fan, but that’s what this site is run by and who its for. I can tell you one thing: Subban’s call today only added to the hype levels of Devils fans all over the world given what the team did in the last two days.

What do you make of these two news items? Do you think Binghamton will benefit with Adam Helewka joining the organization? What do you make of P.K. Subban’s conference call and the highlighted quotes? Do those quotes make you more excited that #76 is joining New Jersey? Did he say anything else on the call that should be highlighted? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on either in the comments. Thank you for reading.