The New Jersey Devils have found success on the right side of their back end this season. The signing of Dougie Hamilton coupled with one of the best season’s of Damon Severson’s career has taken a position that was typically lambasted for its weakness in seasons past to a relative strength. While the top two slots on that side defaulted to those players, the third pairing would see P.K. Subban moved there in his third season after the team acquired him via trade. Brought in to move the needle on the back end, Subban has been a relative disappointment to his salary in terms of what he has brought to the team.
Subban’s play has declined in part due to his age, as well as his playstyle/injuries catching up with him. His foot speed is absolutely not what it used to be, but he still brings something to the table in the offensive zone. As mentioned above, he’s not worth anywhere near $9 million per season anymore (Hamilton is making the same per season while bringing a lot more), but what about Subban at a cheaper cap hit? If he wants to come back to the Devils, and they want to bring him back at say around $2 million for the season, is it beneficial to both parties?
Again, he’s not the Norris Trophy winning defender he used to be, but Subban is not completely inept either. Both his offensive and defensive games are no longer perfect (if they ever were) but to keep him as a third pairing veteran couldn’t be harmful, could it? In terms of his SAT%, Subban has been in line with the rest of the Devils’ defenders; his 51.3% may be fifth, but it is only 1.2% lower than Hamilton who is ranked first among defenders on the team. For the most part, he’s keeping the puck moving in the correct direction, as are the rest of the regular blueliners. Additionally, he is not being sheltered too much, only starting in the offensive zone roughly 53% of the time. The team clearly still feels there is some value to Subban.
The concern with bringing him back would have to be the mileage and the errors he is making due to his lack of foot speed. Subban has been caught out of position multiple times this season, and unfortunately as of right now the Devils do not have a goaltender who can bail them out (at least not a healthy one) with said mistakes. However, for veteran defenders, the Devils could certainly do a lot worse than Subban at a much reduced salary; I honestly believe the only reason he was not traded at the deadline was due to the value he brings versus the cap hit he possesses.
The other factor that should be looked at prior to offering him a new contract would be if the organization feels that bringing P.K. back would block a younger player from entering the lineup. While the right defense pipeline is thin (the only prospect with a real shot next season that’s currently signed would be Reilly Walsh), the team could move Ty Smith back to the side that worked better for him in juniors, or play someone on their off side. Whatever the Devils feel gives the team the best chance of winning on a nightly basis should be how they create the pairings.
If you had me make a decision at this moment, I say bring P.K. back for one more season, but only if the price is right. Even if he winds up being the veteran 7th D, it still gives the Devils someone who has played a large chunk of NHL time and is already familiar with the team and how they play. He’s not that ineffective to the point that he needs to be replaced urgently, and on a cheaper one year deal, if the Devils are not competitive next season, they could send him to a contender at the deadline. If he wants a bigger role next season, however, he will more than likely need to look outside of New Jersey.
What are your thoughts on Subban coming back next season; do you think his play would be worth it at a lower salary? Is there someone else you would rather the Devils bring in instead, be they a free agent or a prospect? Would you be willing to have Subban back strictly as a fill in for injuries/illnesses? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!