BROSSARD – Trading away a player of P.K. Subban’s caliber was by no means an easy decision for general manager Marc Bergevin, but the return in Shea Weber made it tough to pass up.
Two hours after shipping Subban to the Nashville Predators in exchange for their long-time captain on Wednesday, Bergevin fielded questions from members of the media at the Bell Sports Complex to discuss a move that got everyone in the hockey world talking mere seconds after it was announced online.
“Today, we completed an important transaction which I’m convinced will make the Canadiens a better team. It was also one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make as a general manager,” said Bergevin, who has held the position in Montreal since May 2012. “In return for P.K., we acquired a top-notch defenseman in Shea Weber. It was a unique opportunity that was presented to us. Shea is a tremendous leader, a proven player… We were presented with the unique opportunity to improve our team and I truly believe we took a step in the right direction.”
In Weber, Bergevin acquired a defenseman with a proven track record of personal success. Sporting the "C" in Nashville for the past six seasons, the 30-year-old Sicamous, BC native has amassed 443 points – including 80 goals and 187 points on the power play alone – since breaking into the NHL in 2005-06. He’s also a five-time All-Star, a three-time Norris Trophy finalist, and he recently claimed the 2015-16 Mark Messier Leadership Award in Las Vegas.
“I think Shea Weber has a lot of good hockey left. He’s been a stud defenseman for a while, and I don’t see him changing that. He’s a big body that plays a smart game. He’s good defensively, too. He played his Junior hockey in Kelowna and in Nashville they played that type of hockey. I believe he’ll be good for a long time,” said Bergevin, who anticipates that it won’t take too long for the Canadiens faithful to wholehartedly embrace the newest member of Michel Therrien’s squad. “In the last eight years, Shea has missed like two games a year. He’s a very durable player. He brings good size on our back end… He’s a very useful defenseman. He’s a stud.”
Bergevin confirmed that initial talks with the Predators’ brass began last Friday afternoon while teams were all gathered in Buffalo for the NHL Entry Draft. When Weber’s name came up in the conversation with Nashville’s general manager David Poile, it immediately peaked Bergevin's interest. The two finalized the transaction on Wednesday, swapping one talented rearguard for another, both of whom possess similar characteristics.
“It’s tough to replace a defenseman who plays 25 to 26 minutes per game. It was important, if I was looking at trading P.K., that I got another [one like that]. There weren’t a lot available,” explained Bergevin, who lauded Weber’s leadership ability, in addition to his on-ice strengths. “His leadership is one of the topics we focused on in our discussions. It was important for me. You saw what happened [to us] in December and January. We struggled, and it was probably because of a lack of leadership on that end.”
That being said, Bergevin made it clear that the Canadiens organization had no issues whatsoever with the now former No. 76, who in addition to being one of the most gifted players in the game during his time in Montreal, was also a solid citizen and well respected in the community for his charitable endeavors.
“We never had a problem with P.K. You have 23 players on your roster and they’re all different. They all bring different things. One of the most important things for me is punctuality. We never had a problem with P.K. with that,” said Bergevin, before praising Subban for his contributions during his seven-year stay in La Belle Province. “I can’t take anything away from P.K. He's a very good hockey player. He gave the Montreal Canadiens some very good service. If I wasn’t able to go out and get a player of Shea Weber’s caliber, P.K. Subban would be in Montreal and we’d go ahead with him. No problem there.”
While Weber might have a few years on his 2014 Winter Olympics teammate – with Subban being 27 – Bergevin is adamant that the Canadiens secured themselves a player with plenty of good hockey still left in the tank. Shock on the part of the fan base, Bergevin believes, will soon give way to excitement in terms of what Weber can bring to the table night after night come October.
“One of the reasons why Montreal is a special market is because of the passion of our fans. When you’re passionate, those reactions come with it. I understand it. But, I don’t think it will take too much time to appreciate Shea Weber,” said Bergevin. “Any transaction you make, there’s a risk. But, we feel Shea is a great athlete. He’s been a top performer [for a long time].”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
Press conference: Marc Bergevin - June 29
Canadiens acquire defenseman Shea Weber from Nashville in exchange for defenseman P.K. Subban
Ten things to know about Shea Weber
Photo gallery - Shea Weber